Education and Quality of Life for African-Americans

698 words | 3 page(s)

Education is a well-known factor that contributes to quality of life. In a review of the relationship between education, happiness, and wellbeing, Michalos (2017) describes some of the research that supports this claim. Michalos (2017) posits that, although other factors may be more important, such as living conditions and social support networks, having a higher level of education can increase happiness and thus quality of life overall.

For African-Americans, the relationship is a little more complex. African-Americans are often subject to prejudice and limitations in access to certain career paths (Williams, Priest and Anderson, 2016). As such, the influence that education has on overall quality of life is dependent on these external factors. Despite this, there is still a correlation between quality of life and education in this group. The mechanism behind this correlation appears to be that African-Americans with higher levels of education are often able to overcome some of the boundaries that are placed upon them by race, entering into areas that have historically been off-limits (Williams et al., 2016). In essence, education can start to break down some of the walls placed upon African-Americans at birth, increasing quality of life.

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In a study of 1192 African-Americans and 1487 whites, Fuller-Rowell, Curtis, Doan and Coe (2015) found that inflammatory markers were increased in African-Americans compared to whites over time. This indicates that African-Americans are subject to higher levels of stress over their lifetime. There is a mediating effect for education levels, but this mediating effect is stronger in white participants than in African-Americans, suggesting that the benefits of education may be less effective for African-Americans (Fuller-Rowell et al., 2015). Despite this, the study highlights that education can have a positive impact on health outcomes for African-Americans over time.

The issue with this is that there is still a disparity in education levels between African-Americans and white Americans. The gap between these two groups has closed significantly over the last few decades (Feagin, Vera and Imani, 2014). Despite this, there are still issues facing African-Americans when it comes to achieving higher education, particularly in terms of financial support, social support, and self-belief (Feagin et al., 2014). Even when an African-American does enter into the higher education system, the higher prevalence of white Americans at many universities means that they do not receive the support that is needed to close the education gap.

Public schools in areas which have a higher number of black residents often have fewer resources than those in white areas, a fact that is magnified by the fact that African-Americans often live in low-income areas (Assari, 2018). Being black and low-income means that the quality of schooling is often not up to standard, which reduces the ability of those who fit into these categories to achieve higher levels of education: there is little support for black, low-income individuals seeking to access colleges and university (Assari, 2018). The lack of resources may contribute to the fact that African-Americans are more likely to suffer from certain diseases that are associated with education than whites (Fuller-Rowell et al., 2015).

Another factor here is that it is a self-perpetuating cycle. Children of parents that went to college are more likely to go to college, and if African-Americans have trouble accessing this, then this issue is generational (Assari, 2018). An individual who has guidance to navigate the college application cycle is more likely to be successful, and without this support, African-Americans are unable to access higher education on the same level (Feagin et al., 2014). In addition to this, negative stereotypes about African-Americans, intelligence, and drive also have a negative impact on a teacher´s ability to recognize potential in this group, again limiting educational options for African-Americans (Assari, 2018).

  • Assari, S. (2018). Health Disparities due to Diminished Return among Black Americans: Public Policy Solutions. Social Issues And Policy Review, 12(1), 112-145. doi: 10.1111/sipr.12042
  • Feagin, J., Vera, H., & Imani, N. (2014). The agony of education. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Fuller-Rowell, T., Curtis, D., Doan, S., & Coe, C. (2015). Racial Disparities in the Health Benefits of Educational Attainment. Psychosomatic Medicine, 77(1), 33-40. doi: 10.1097/psy.0000000000000128
  • Michalos, A. (2017). Education, Happiness and Wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 87(3), 347-366. doi: 10.1007/s11205-007-9144-0
  • Williams, D., Priest, N., & Anderson, N. (2016). Understanding associations among race, socioeconomic status, and health: Patterns and prospects. Health Psychology, 35(4), 407-411. doi: 10.1037/hea0000242

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