23 May 2013: Sociology & Urban Studies Joint Seminar

Published: 13 September 2012

Prof. James Nazroo: 'Ethnicity and Health: the role of inequality'

Ethnicity and Health: the role of inequality

Professor James Nazroo (University of Manchester, Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research, Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity)

13.30-15.30pm, Room 916, Adam Smith Building


Differences in health across ethnic groups, in terms of both morbidity (the presence of illness and disease) and mortality, have been repeatedly documented in the UK, as they have in the US and elsewhere in the world. They seem to be a consistent feature of the social distribution of health in developed countries. But health inequalities have largely been investigated within a medical paradigm, one that focuses on specific diseases, and investigates the distribution of disease across the population in the expectation of finding 'clues' as to causal processes. The seemingly ‘natural’ division of the population into ethnic/race groups in such investigations allows for the easy reification of ethnic classifications and the identification of causal processes within imagined essential characteristics of ethnic groups.

In this paper I will first describe the ethnic patterning of health – primarily using data drawn from the UK – and then go on to discuss possible explanations for this patterning. This will touch on issues of class, racism, generation and integration. Throughout I will show that ethnic inequalities in health in developed countries cannot be understood without building on an adequate understanding of ethnic/race relations and the contexts within which these operate. The core argument is that health cannot be understood outside of social context – its generation and distribution across the population is not a purely biological phenomenon. And that differences in health across ethnic groups cannot be understood without considering how they relate to the patterning of social and economic inequalities.


James Nazroo is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) at the University of Manchester and Director of the Glasgow-Manchester ESRC Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). He initially trained at St. George’s Hospital Medical School, where he obtained a BSc in medical sociology and MBBS, then studied at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College for a MSc in Sociology of Health and Illness, and studied for his PhD in Sociology at UCL. Before coming to Manchester, he was Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL.

Issues of inequality, social justice and underlying processes of stratification have been the primary focus of his research activities, which have centred on ethnicity, ageing, gender, and the intersections between these. His research on ethnic inequalities in health began with describing differences in health across and within broad ethnic groupings and assessing the contribution that social disadvantage might make to these differences. Central to this has been developing an understanding of the links between ethnicity, racism, class and inequality. This work has covered a variety of elements of social disadvantage, including socioeconomic position, racial discrimination and harassment, and ecological effects. It also covers a variety of health outcomes, including general health, mental health, cardiovascular disease and sexual health. He has taken an increasing focus on comparative analysis (across groups, time and place) to investigate underlying processes, involving collaborations with colleagues in the US, Canada, Europe and New Zealand – as well as the UK.

All welcome.

The Sociology and Urban Studies Seminar Series are supported by the MacFie Bequest, named after Professor Alec MacFie, Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy at the University from 1945 to 1958. 


Sociology: Andrew.Smith.2@glasgow.ac.uk

Urban Studies: Mark.livingston@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6162, or or Julie.Clark@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 4516

First published: 13 September 2012