Dohrenwend, B. P., et al. “Socioeconomic Status and Psychiatric Disorders: The
Causation-Selection Issue.” Science 255 (1992): 946-952.
This article is important to my topic because it deals with the issue of whether socioeconomic status (SES) is due to social causation or social selection processes. Social causation attributes psychiatric disorders to the stress and adversity people with low social status must deal with. Social selection, however, explains low social status as a result of psychiatric disorders not caused by SES. Although it is admitted by the authors that both processes are likely to contribute, the relative importance of each has yet to be discovered. In order to discover the relative importance of each process, the authors decide to look at ethnic status in relation to psychiatric health and SES.
They choose Israel and look at two groups living there in 1982: European Jews, the advantaged ethnic group, and Northern African Jews, the disadvantaged ethnic group. The social causation theory predicts “that the incremental adversity experienced by disadvantaged ethnic groups leads to incrementally higher rates of psychopathology at every SES level” (946-947). They found this to be true with depressed women and with men with substance abuse or antisocial personalities. The numbers for both were higher in the disadvantaged group than in the advantaged group of a similar SES status. The social selection theory predicts that “the healthy and able tend to rise to or maintain high status and the unhealthy and disabled tend to drift down from high SES or fail to rise out of low SES” (947). By looking at the higher numbers of schizophrenia in the advantaged group we can see this theory at work: although people with schizophrenia face more obstacles in the world of work, members of the disadvantaged group with schizophrenia are held back from attaining a similar SES as those schizophrenic members of the advantaged class...