Social relations and health: Comparing “invisible” Arab Americans to Blacks and Whites

Document Type


Publication Date



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Publication Title

Society and Mental Health


This paper establishes preliminary benchmarks by comparing average values of social relations and health among Arab Americans, blacks, and whites. Specifically, we expand traditional racial/ethnic categories to distinguish Arab Americans, historically and legally considered white. Data come from a unique random-digit-dial (RDD) sample of Arab Americans (N = 96), blacks (N = 102), and whites (N = 100) from metro-Detroit collected in 2011, ranging in age from 19 to 89. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to compare health, network structure, composition, and support quality. Findings established preliminary benchmarks showing that Arab Americans reported more depressive symptoms (7.6) than whites (5.2) but no difference in physical health. Arab Americans also reported more contact frequency (4.4) than blacks (4.1) and whites (4.0) yet lower proportions of networks comprised of the same ethnicity (77 percent) compared to blacks (96 percent) and whites (97 percent). Unpacking the white category to identify Arab Americans in a comparative analysis identified benchmarks to indicate how Arab American health and social relations are distinct from blacks and whites, yielding unique avenues for thinking about new ways to conceptualize how race and social relations impact health disparities.

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