There is a large volume of research demonstrating that people from disadvantaged neighborhoods are at high risk for negative outcomes including aggression, substance use, physical abuse, sexually risky behavior, and psychological issues. But few studies have looked at how income-poverty ratios affect maladaptive coping and in particular, alcohol use.
Katherine J. Karriker-Jaffe of the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute in California wanted to see if there was a difference in alcohol-related behaviors based on income-poverty ratios rather than just socioeconomic status. In other words, she wanted to find out if high levels of income inequality would affect drinking behaviors. She also wanted to see how this dynamic affected different ethnic groups.
Karriker-Jaffe chose to conduct a study using data from a national sample of 13,997 adults. She looked at income inequality, neighborhood socioeconomic status, community advantages and disadvantages, and also ethnicity. Karriker-Jaffe found that there were several unique associations between ethnicity and poverty-income ratios.
First, she found that black-white poverty was related to higher rates of heavy drinking for both black and white participants and led to higher negative outcomes and dependency among black participants. This same finding was evident in Hispanic-white poverty classes, but drinking patterns were light, not heavy.
The finding that poverty ratios affected all participants similarly, by increasing drinking, but only affected black and Hispanic participants’ levels of negative outcomes is interesting. Karriker-Jaffe believes that perhaps the environmental context is responsible for this finding. She said, “Our findings suggest that higher levels of alcohol-related problems among black and Hispanic people may be partly due to the social and policy context in states with high race-based income inequality.”
For example, they may in areas that are policed more and thus be at greater risk of getting into trouble with the law. Also, these same neighborhoods may not offer as many alcohol treatment programs, making it more difficult for these individuals to get help for alcohol-related problems. In sum, this study shows that socioeconomic status is not the only economic risk factor for negative alcohol use and that reducing the income gap between minorities and white individuals could reduce alcohol related problems, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Karriker-Jaffe, K., Sarah, C. M., Roberts, P.H., and Bond, J. (2013). Income inequality, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems. American Journal of Public Health 103.4 (2013): 649-56. ProQuest. Web.
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