Race, socioeconomic status, and the perceived importance of positive self-presentation in health care

Jennifer R. Malat, Michelle Van Ryn, David Purcell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Hundreds of studies have documented disparities in medical treatment in the USA. These findings have generated research and initiatives intended to understand and ameliorate such disparities. Many articles examine disadvantaged patients' beliefs and attitudes toward health care, but generally limit their investigation to how these beliefs and attitudes influence adherence and utilization. Thus, this approach fails 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 (the 2004 Greater Cincinnati Survey) 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 health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2479-2488
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Race
  • Self-presentation
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Treatment disparities
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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