Socioeconomic Disparities in Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Young Adults in the United States: Examining the Interaction Between Income and Race/Ethnicity

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There is considerable evidence of racial/ethnic patterning of sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk in the United States. There is also evidence that poorer persons are at increased STI risk. Evidence regarding the interaction of race/ethnicity and income is limited, particularly nationally at the individual level.


We examined the pattern of socioeconomic gradients in STI infection among young people in a nationwide US study and determined how these gradients varied by race/ethnicity. We estimated the cumulative diagnosis prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis (via self-report or laboratory confirmation) for young adults (ages, 18–26 years old) Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and others across income quintiles in the Add Health data set. We ran regression models to evaluate these relationships adjusting for individual- and school-level covariates.


Sexually transmitted infection diagnosis was independently associated with both racial/ethnic identity and with low income, although the racial/ethnic disparities were much larger than income-based ones. A negative gradient of STI risk with increasing income was present within all racial/ethnic categories, but was stronger for nonwhites.


Both economic and racial/ethnic factors should be considered in deciding how to target STI prevention efforts in the United States. Particular focus may be warranted for poor, racial/ethnic minority women.

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