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Organizational Context and the Well-Being of Black Workers: Does Racial Composition Affect Psychological Distress?

Race, Identity and Work

ISBN: 978-1-78769-502-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-501-6

Publication date: 7 November 2018


Organizational approaches to racial inequality have provided contextual insight into a host of traditional stratification outcomes (e.g., hiring, earnings, authority). This chapter extends the organizational approach by drawing on the health-stress framework to explore how organizational context affects experiential and health-related outcomes – discrimination, social support, and psychological distress. Drawing on a sample of Black workers in the United States, we examine the relationship between workplace racial composition and psychological distress, as well as two potential mediators – racial discrimination and workplace social support. Our findings reveal that psychological distress is similar for Black workers in token (<25% Black coworkers), tilted other race (25–49.99% Black coworkers), and tilted same race (50–74.99% Black coworkers) job contexts. Workers in Black-dominated jobs (>75% Black coworkers), however, experience significantly less psychological distress than other compositional thresholds, net of individual, job, and workplace characteristics. This relationship is not explained by either racial discrimination experiences or supervisor and coworker social support. This finding suggests that researchers need to theorize and examine other protective factors stemming from coworker racial similarity.




We would like to thank Sibyl Kleiner, three anonymous reviewers, and the Research in the Sociology of Work co-editors for useful critique, comments, and suggestions on previous versions of this manuscript. All remaining error and ambiguity belong to the authors.


Stainback, K., Jason, K. and Walter, C. (2018), "Organizational Context and the Well-Being of Black Workers: Does Racial Composition Affect Psychological Distress?", Race, Identity and Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 137-164.



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