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Old Issues, New Directions1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2011

Gilbert C. Gee*
School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles
Chandra L. Ford
School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles
Gilbert C. Gee, Department of Community Health Sciences, UCLA School of Public Health, 650 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095. E-mail:


Racial minorities bear a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality. These inequities might be explained by racism, given the fact that racism has restricted the lives of racial minorities and immigrants throughout history. Recent studies have documented that individuals who report experiencing racism have greater rates of illnesses. While this body of research has been invaluable in advancing knowledge on health inequities, it still locates the experiences of racism at the individual level. Yet, the health of social groups is likely most strongly affected by structural, rather than individual, phenomena. The structural forms of racism and their relationship to health inequities remain under-studied. This article reviews several ways of conceptualizing structural racism, with a focus on social segregation, immigration policy, and intergenerational effects. Studies of disparities should more seriously consider the multiple dimensions of structural racism as fundamental causes of health disparities.

Unpacking Racism and its Health Consequences
Copyright © W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research 2011

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The authors thank Kaori Fujishiro, the guest editors, and several anonymous reviewers for invaluable comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The authors acknowledge support from the California Center for Population Research at the University of California at Los Angeles.



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