Racial-Ethnic Differences in Social Networks and Perceived Support: Measurement Considerations and Implications for Disparities Research

Melissa Flores, John M. Ruiz, Christian Goans, Emily A. Butler, Bert N. Uchino, Michiyo Hirai, Ruben Tinajero, Timothy W. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Racial-ethnic differences in physical/mental health are well documented as being associated with disparities; however, emerging conceptual models increasingly suggest that group differences in social functioning and organization contribute to these relationships. There is little work examining whether racial-ethnic groups respond similarly to classic measures of social networks and perceived support and whether there are significant between-groups differences on these measures. Method: A multisite, cross-sectional study of 2,793 non-Hispanic White (NHW), non-Hispanic Black (NHB), and Hispanic participants was conducted using common measures of social networks and perceived support. A confirmatory factor analytic model was used to test for the invariance of factor covariance and mean structures in a three latent constructs model including social network, social provisions, and interpersonal support. Between-group differences in structural and functional support were assessed. Results: We established measurement invariance of the latent representations of these measures suggesting that racial-ethnic groups responded comparably. In direct comparisons, Hispanics and NHWs demonstrated similar levels of network structure and support. In contrast, NHWs reported support advantages on a majority of measures compared with NHBs. Conclusions: Findings support the use of these measures across groups and provide initial support for potential differences in this hypothesized mediator of racial-ethnic health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Health disparities
  • Measurement invariance
  • Race ethnicity
  • Social networks
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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