Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race

State of the Art


A Test of the Segmented Racialization Hypothesis1

Brenda L. Henry-Sancheza1 c1 and Arline T. Geronimusa2

a1 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

a2 School of Public Health and Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Despite shared colonization histories between the United States and Latin America, research examining racial disparities in health in the United States has often neglected Latinos. Additionally, descendants from Latin America residing in the United States are often categorized under the pan-ethnic label of Hispanic or Latino. This categorization obscures the group's heterogeneity, which is illuminated by research showing consistent differences in health for the three largest segments of the Latino population—Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. We examine whether the patterns of infant mortality associated with race in the non-Latino population also follow for Latinos. We also examine whether we can attribute patterns of infant mortality between the three largest Latino sub-groups to a process we term segmented racialization. We find that race operates for Latinos the same way it does for the non-Latino population and that there seems to be some evidence to support our segmented racialization hypothesis. The results point to the need to abandon the practices of combining Latino sub-groups as well as ignoring the racial diversity within the Latino population in health research.


  • Infant Mortality;
  • Disparities;
  • Latinos;
  • Race/ethnicity;
  • Segmented Racialization


c1 Brenda Liz Henry-Sanchez, Senior Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Route 1 and College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08543. E-mail: bhenry@rwjf.org

Brenda L. Henry-Sanchez is a Senior Program Officer in Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the largest foundation in the United States exclusively focused on improving health and health care for all Americans. Dr. Henry-Sanchez oversees evaluations of programs and initiatives with the potential for widespread replication and national impact and funds research that expands our understanding of how best to improve the health and well-being of America's most vulnerable populations. Prior to joining RWJF, Dr. Henry-Sanchez served as Program Director at the Center for Applied Research and Technical Assistance, where she lead work to improve programs that served youth of color. Dr. Henry-Sanchez received both her PhD in health behavior and health education and her MPH from the University of Michigan.

Arline T. Geronimus is Professor in the School of Public Health and Research Professor and Associate Director of the Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, at the University of Michigan. Dr. Geronimus originated the “weathering hypothesis” as a framework for theorizing U.S. racial health inequality. She has authored numerous articles in social science, public health, and medical journals, including “To Denigrate, Ignore, or Disrupt: Racial Inequality in Health and the Impact of Policy-induced Breakdown of African American Communities” (with Phil Thompson in the Du Bois Review, 2004). Dr. Geronimus' most recent chapters include, “The Mutability of Women's Health with Age: The Sometimes Rapid, and Often Enduring, Health Consequences of Injustice” (with Rachel Snow, 2013); and “Jedi Public Health: Leveraging Contingencies of Social Identity to Eliminate Racial Health Inequality” (2013).


1   The authors wish to acknowledge Ana Diez-Roux, Gilbert Gee, Harold Neighbors, and three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Study analyses were supported, in part, by the University of Michigan's Rackham Merit Fellowship Program, Rackham One-Term Dissertation Program, and Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health Doctoral Training Program (funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences), and a fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.