White people should worry about racism.  They should worry about racism because it’s wrong.  But if that’s not enough of a motivation, they should worry about it for their own damn good.  Philip Cohen of Family Inequality shows us how so with a discussion of a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The Figure below illustrates the percentage of black (grey bar) and white (white bar) residents who went into end-stage renal disease (kidney failure; ESRD) before ever seeing a doctor specializing in kidneys (a nephrologist).  As we move from left to right, the zip codes in which patients live becomes increasingly populated by black people.

What we see is that, in any given neighborhood, black people are always less likely to get access to a kidney specialist before their kidneys fail; but also that white people living in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of blacks are less likely than whites in a more white neighborhood to see a specialist.  So much so that whites living in neighborhoods that are more than 50% black are less likely to see a specialist than blacks living in neighborhoods that are less than 25% black.

Cohen specifies that…

…the relationship still holds even when individual socioeconomic status, and local-area socioeconomic status, are controlled. So it’s not just a poverty effect.

Somehow places that are “blacker”, even when they are not poor, are serviced with inferior health care compared to places that are “whiter.”  And everyone suffers for it (though not necessarily equally).

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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