Race, Socioeconomic Status, and the Perceived Importance of Positive Self-Presentation in Health Care

Jennifer R. Malat, University of Cincinnati
Michelle van Ryn, University of Minnesota
David Purcell, University of Cincinnati

Hundreds of studies have documented disparities in medical treatment in the US. These findings have generated research and initiatives intended to understand and ameliorate such disparities. Most approaches implicitly assume that disadvantaged patients’ beliefs and attitudes toward healthcare are at odds with the healthcare system, failing to consider whether patients use particular strategies to overcome providers’ potentially negative perceptions of them and/or obtain quality medical care. In this paper, we examine positive self-presentation as a strategy that may be used by disadvantaged groups to improve their medical treatment. Analysis of survey data suggests that both African Americans and lower socioeconomic status persons are more likely than whites or higher socioeconomic status persons to report that positive self-presentation is important for their getting the best medical care. Based on these findings, we suggest several routes for future research that will advance our understanding of patients’ everyday strategies for getting the best healthcare.

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Presented in Session 118: African American Mortality and Health