Background: Although higher socioeconomic status (SES) indicators such as educational attainment are linked with health behaviors, the Blacks’ Diminished Return
theory posits that the protective effects of SES are systemically smaller for Blacks than Whites. Aims: To explore the Black/White differences in the association between education and smoking. Methods: This cross-sectional study used the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 2017 (n
= 3217). HINTS is a national survey of American adults. The current analysis included 2277 adults who were either Whites (n
= 1868; 82%) or Blacks (n
= 409; 18%). The independent variable was educational attainment, and the dependent variables were ever and current (past 30-day) smoking. Demographic factors (age and gender) were covariates. Race was the focal moderator. Results: In the pooled sample, higher educational attainment was associated with lower odds of ever and current smoking. Race interacted with the effects of higher educational attainment on current smoking, suggesting a stronger protective effect of higher education against current smoking for Whites than Blacks. Race did not interact with the effect of educational attainment on odds of ever smoking. Conclusions: In line with previous research in the United States, education is more strongly associated with health and health behaviors in Whites than Blacks. Smaller protective effects of education on health behaviors may be due to the existing racism across institutions such as the education system and labor market.
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