Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

MA in Psychology



First Advisor

Elizabeth Brondolo

Second Advisor

Dana Chesney


Racism has been observed as a highly prevalent psychosocial stressor across minorities, and consistently associated with depression across racial/ethnic groups. However, existing evidence is unclear on effective buffers of discrimination to depression. Researchers have hypothesized that education may mitigate discrimination’s effects on negative mental health outcomes. Evidence evaluating education as a buffer on the relations of discrimination to depression is limited. The analysis is further complicated as the evidence linking education level to discrimination exposure is also mixed. Although some studies indicate lower education levels are associated with greater perceived racism, many studies indicate an association of higher education with higher levels of discrimination. Therefore, it remains unclear if education is a risk or protective factor against discrimination and the mental health sequelae of discrimination. The aim of the study is to examine education as a moderator of the relations of discrimination to depression in three samples: a sample of adults from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds from New York City (NYC) (n = 400); a sample of Black adults from NYC (n = 330), and a sample of American Indians/Alaskan Native adults from Colorado (n = 298). Analyses examined interactions between education and discrimination in three studies. Results indicated a link between discrimination and depression in all three samples, which is consistent with previous literature. Education was associated with discrimination only in the AI/AN sample, with more highly educated individuals reporting more discrimination. Education only showed moderating effects in the diverse sample. Those with higher levels of education displayed smaller effects of discrimination on depression than those with lower levels of education. These findings suggest that the cognitive and social resources provided by education are not sufficient to offset the mental health effects of discrimination consistently. Further research should seek to identify possible buffers of this relationship.

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