Structural Racism, the Social Determinants of Health, and Health Inequities: The Intersecting Impacts of Housing and Mass Incarceration

Public health researchers have directed increasing attention to structural racism and its implications for health equity. The conceptualization of racism as historically rooted in systems, structures, and institutions of US society has important implications for addressing social determinants of health (SDOH). It requires theorizing SDOH as embedded in and expressions of racially oppressive historical structures that are manifested in and maintained by policies, programs, and practices in multiple domains that dynamically intersect to reinforce and reproduce in new ways: race inequities in health.

We develop this argument using housing, a SDOH recognized as reflecting longstanding racist practices and policies that, among other things, have restricted the affordable housing options of Black people to segregated neighborhoods with limited resources. We argue that understanding and addressing the health inequities resulting from structural racism associated with housing requires simultaneously understanding and addressing how housing intersects with mass incarceration, another SDOH and manifestation of structural racism.

We suggest that unless these intersections are intentionally analyzed and confronted, efforts to address the impacts of housing on racial health disparities may produce new forms of health inequities.

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American Journal of Public Health