Perceived discrimination and psychological well-being in the USA and South Africa

Objective. To explore levels of perceived racial and non-racial discrimination and their associations with self-esteem and mastery in the USA and South Africa. Design. We used ordinary least square regressions to test the cross-sectional associations between discrimination and psychological resources using two national probability samples of adults: the National Survey of American Life and the South African Stress and Health Study. Results. Levels of perceived racial discrimination were higher in the USA than in South Africa. In the USA, both African-Americans and Caribbean Blacks have comparable or higher levels of self-esteem and mastery than Whites. In contrast, South African Whites have higher levels of both self-esteem and mastery than Africans, Coloureds, and Indians. Perceived discrimination, especially chronic everyday discrimination, is inversely related to self-esteem and mastery in both societies. In South Africa, stress and socioeconomic status (SES) but not discrimination are important determinants of racial differences in self-esteem and mastery. Conclusions. In two racialized societies, perceived discrimination acts independent of demographic factors, general stressors, social desirability bias, racial identity, and SES, to negatively affect the psychological resources of self-esteem and mastery.