(via EurekAlert) A press release by the Association for Psychological Science outlines the results of a study demonstrating that the experience of class discrimination -- that is, just being treated like you're poor, beyond the implicit health consequences of not having the same health resources as wealthier people -- has measurably negative effects on health.
"Experiences of discrimination are often subtle rather than blatant, and the exact reason for unfair treatment is often not clear to the victim," says [lead author Dr. Thomas] Fuller-Rowell. For these reasons, rather than asking the study participants if they had experienced discrimination specifically based on their class background, the study measured general perceptions of discrimination. For example, they were asked: "How often do people treat you differently because of your background?"
Then researchers took overnight urine samples, and other tests to assess stress on the body, including measures of blood pressure and stress-related hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Together, these factors can measure a person's "allostatic load," a term that describes the negative health changes caused by a frequent exposure to stress.
[... T]he poorer the teens, the more they experienced discrimination, the worse their health measures were. Fuller-Rowell's model suggests that about 13 percent of the negative health effects of poverty on health can be attributed to perceived discrimination. [Emphasis mine]
The thing that bothers me most about this is the connection to conservative rhetoric about poverty. The "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" argument, which suggests poor people are just being lazy, isn't just wrong, it's causing measurable physical suffering.