Parental Education Ain’t Enough: A Study of Race (Racism), Parental Education, and Children’s Thalamus Volume

Shervin Assari, Tommy J. Curry


Introduction. The thalamus is the hub of the brain and has a significant role in various brain activities. Purpose. This study explored racial differences in the association between parental education and thalamus volume among American children. Methods. Using data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), we analyzed the structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI) data of 11141 9-10 years old children. The main outcome was the thalamus volume. The independent variable was parental education. Age, sex, ethnicity, family marital status, and intracranial volume were the covariates. Race was the moderator. To analyze the data, we used mixed-effects regression models. Results. In race-stratified models, high parental education was associated with smaller thalamus volume in White but not Black children. In the pooled sample, significant interactions were found between race and parental education suggesting that the effect of parental education on left thalamus volume is significantly smaller for Blacks and mixed/other race children than White children. Conclusions. The effect of parental education on children’s thalamus volume seems to be weaker for Black and other/mixed-race children than their White counterparts. This finding is in support of Minorites’ Diminished Returns (MDRs) that suggest due to social stratification and racism, economic resources have weaker than expected effects in minority populations.

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