Socioeconomic Status of African-Caribbean Men in the UK

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 40
Words: 8263
Reading time:
31 min
Study level: Undergraduate


The American Psychology Association conceptualises socioeconomic status as a product of the income, education, and occupation of a person (Gillborn, 2001). Informally, SES determines the social perception (or class) of a group, individual, community or even a region. Researchers who have previously undertaken socioeconomic studies highlight inequalities in education, access to resources and access to power as the main causes of SES (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000).

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Many research studies have advanced a strong relationship between low SES status and poor psychological health (Elam, 2001, p. 1). For example, higher rates of suicide, excessive cigarette smoking, behavioural misconduct, emotional impairment, instability, attention deficit, and excessive consumption of alcohol have been strongly associated with low SES (Miech & Caspi, 2011). Similarly, higher incidences of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer disease, individual aggression, and hostility have a higher incidence among people from low SES (some researchers have even tried to draw a link between low socioeconomic status and negative outcomes at birth) (Hudson, 2005).

The above outcomes contrast with research studies that have advanced a strong relationship between high SES and positive psychological outcomes. Researchers such as Aneshensel (2006) and Hudson (2005) say, people from higher SES exhibit positive psychological outcomes (such as optimism and high self-esteem). More researchers have affirmed this relationship by drawing the link between high SES and positive education outcomes (Garraway & Pistrang, 2010).

Broadly, researchers investigating the impact of SES on family well-being have shown that SES influences family stability and parenting skills (Garraway & Pistrang, 2010). Indeed, there are many studies, which show the relationship between poverty, family neglect, and child abuse (especially among children from low-income families exposed to substance abuse) (Garraway & Pistrang, 2010). The relationship between low SES and domestic crowding mirror the above relationship because Kelaher (2009) explains that domestic crowding has a strong link with psychological stress and other poor health outcomes. Kelaher (2009) also says people from low-income families suffer a higher risk of violence, low educational achievement, and victimisation in the society.

As seen from the above examples, for a long time, research studies that have used socioeconomic status as an influence of social progression and mental status have analysed its impact on health and education outcomes alone. Therefore, few studies have analysed the impact of socioeconomic status beyond these two measures (health and education). More so, even fewer studies have focused on the impact of SES on the happiness of ethnic and racial minorities.

One racial and ethnic group that is of special interest to this study is the African-Caribbean population, which has lived in the British Isles for a long time. In the early 20th century, this ethnic group settled in Britain as part of a British quest to fill the gaps in its labour force. Even though the African-Caribbean population does not constitute the largest migrant population in the UK, their presence largely characterises the ethnic composition in Britain today. The Ligali Organisation (2005) explains that about 500,000 African-Caribbean people are living in the UK today. Half of this population was born in the UK (in fact, about 1% of the population in England and Wales constitute African-Caribbean people) (The Ligali Organisation, 2005). To fill the knowledge gap created by the failure to focus on the wellbeing of the African-Caribbean people (beyond the realms of health and education), this paper focuses on exploring the changing employment and socioeconomic status among African-Caribbean men living in the UK

Statement of the Problem

The happiness and wellbeing of a person form an integral part of their psychological development. A person’s level of happiness also significantly determines their quality of life, attitudes, and perceptions of life. Sociologists understand a person’s level of happiness and wellbeing along the perspectives of age and marital status (Everard, 2000). For example, compared to middle-aged citizens, a past survey done by Barusch & Rogers (1999) reported higher levels of happiness among teenagers and retired people. Many factors can be attributed to this disparity (regarding the level of happiness), but it is inevitable to highlight the influence of life stressors (especially among the working population) as one cause of individual happiness (Bratter & Eschbach, 2005).

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One dynamic concerning the relationship between SES and happiness is the wide disparity of SES among different races and ethnicities in the UK. The American Psychology Association contends that race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status intertwines together because race and ethnicity affect socioeconomic status and socioeconomic status mirrors the race or ethnicity of a person (Chi & Chou, 2001). Therefore, according to Chou & Chi (2001), a person’s race, or ethnicity may widely influence their SES. Indeed, even the segregation of communities in the UK widely describes the differences in race, ethnicity, and SES of the inhabitants. However, besides the obvious clichés regarding the social classifications and perceptions regarding different racial and ethnic groups in the UK, unique cultural and racial factors emphasise the need to have a deeper understanding regarding every racial group. Culture alone has a profound impact on how people manage life stressors, diseases, or even families (Al-Issa, 1995). Consequently, these dynamics contribute to individual happiness. For example, a past survey done by Hurdle (2001) showed that marital status does not have any significant impact on the happiness or wellbeing of African-Caribbean women. Some experts view the disconnect between marital status and the happiness of African-Caribbean women to mean, marriage does not imply the same thing for African-Caribbean women as it does for women from other races (Hurdle, 2001). Some researchers advance this argument by citing the relationship between marital status and happiness among communities that value marriages. From this inconsistency, it is crucial to investigate if there are other unconventional causes of happiness in the society that does not have the same effect on African-Caribbean people.

Furthermore, the inconsistency in the above relationship also shows that besides the obvious causes of happiness (like better education and high income); there are other factors, which determine the level of happiness among racial and ethnic minorities in the UK. Therefore, besides the known social and economic challenges that affect racial and ethnic minorities in the UK, it is crucial to understand the impact that socioeconomic status has on a specific racial group – African-Caribbean men.

Research Questions

  • Do unemployment and low SES of African-Caribbean men affect their emotional ties?
  • Do unemployment and low SES of African-Caribbean men influence their level of happiness?
  • In what ways do unemployment and low SES of African-Caribbean men affect their social support structures?
  • Do unemployment and low SES of African-Caribbean men increase their level of discrimination?
  • Do unemployment and low SES among African-Caribbean men mirror the prevalence of mental disorders among the Afro-Caribbean community?
  • Do unemployment and low SES among African-Caribbean men affect their coping strategies?

Importance of Study

For many people, SES affects their quality of life. Indeed, the efficiencies of most human functions are a product of their SES. Therefore, SES affects a person’s wellbeing. Everard (2000) says communities characterised by low SES, share similar characteristics with communities in developing nations because they are both characterised by poor health standards, low levels of educational achievement, and low standards of living. From the wide impact SES has on peoples’ lives, the perception that SES contribute to most social ills in the society prevails.

Based on their socioeconomic disparities, researchers have strived to understand the resilience shown by different communities to overcome social challenges. Everard, 2000 explains that it is untenable for the society to ignore SES disparities in evaluating psychological outcomes because SES affects human interaction and individual wellbeing. By focusing on socioeconomic factors and its antecedents, it is therefore easy to improve the overall wellbeing of the society.

Broadly, the effects of low SES (and its antecedents) have a profound impact on our society. For instance, the rising inequalities in wealth distribution (both in the UK and in the US) have become a social issue in the society. Furthermore, these inequalities determine how cohesive or incoherent our society may be (Aranda, 2001). Academically, the importance of analysing the influence of changes in employment status and SES contributes to the growing body of knowledge regarding behavioural and social science disciplines. This contribution equally adds values to advocacy programs, education pursuits, and similar efforts that rely on critical socioeconomic factors for their success.

Literature Review

Status of the African-Caribbean community in Britain

Like many ethnic and racial minorities in the UK, most African-Caribbean people come from low-income families. A low-income status sets them at a disadvantage with other racial and ethnic groups because it denies them access to resources, health facilities, quality education, and employment opportunities. From the same socioeconomic disadvantages, the African-Caribbean minority experience significant social challenges associated with discrimination and exclusion (some of these challenges are historic) (Nazro & Karlsen, 2001).

Nonetheless, the socioeconomic hurdles faced by the African-Caribbean population in the UK mirror the same social and economic challenges plaguing most migrant populations in not only the UK but other industrialised countries as well. Therefore, other migrant communities commonly experience issues like discrimination and high unemployment. For example, compared to their white counterparts, the rate of unemployment among African-Caribbean men is high. Partly, this imbalance emanates from the negative stereotypical approach white people (and some races) have towards people of African heritage. For example, Pathak (2000) explains that in the school setting, white teachers often perceive black students to be troublemakers. This attitude also prevails in the workplace.

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Compared to the white race, the low levels of educational achievement among African-Caribbean males are distinct. There are many factors attributed to this differential but census statistics have shown that African-Caribbean people continue to lag the educational ladder, even though African-Caribbean males and white males have the same likelihood to stay in school after age 16 (Anjool, 2005). Moreover, there is a significant level of education exclusion within the African-Caribbean community because the Inner London Education Authority reports that African-Caribbean students account for about 14% of the student population, but they account for about 30% of all student exclusions (Anjool, 2005). The Inner London Education Authority also reports that in less than one academic year, more than one in every ten African-Caribbean students are engaged in some form of exclusion procedure (majority of the children in care are also African-Caribbean) (Anjool, 2005). Exclusion is more profound for boys than girls are because recent statistics say boys are four times more likely to experience exclusion than girls are (Anjool, 2005). These inequalities in education mirror the workplace attitude and lifestyles of the African-Caribbean population.

Another area of significant disparity between the African-Caribbean population and the rest of the British population is the significantly high levels of single parenthood among African-Caribbean adults (Caldwell, 2002). The quality of family formation and family bonds among African-Caribbean adults is relatively low when compared to other racial groups (this outcome links to poor health among the African-Caribbean population). Besides the unique characteristics of the African-Caribbean community, African-Caribbean people still fall below the level of other racial and ethnic minorities in the country. For example, after comparing African-Caribbean men and Indian men, Caldwell (2002) highlights an uneven socioeconomic status between both racial groups. Through the same comparison, he concludes that Indian and Pakistani minority groups fair better economically than African-Caribbean men do (Caldwell, 2002).

From the above comparisons, African-Caribbean people pose an interesting dynamic to the understanding of the impact that low SES has on psychological health but, unlike other racial and ethnic minorities, they have a different culture affecting their values, attitudes, and beliefs. For example, many African-Caribbean men associate with the Rastafarian culture and their customs, traditions, and beliefs have a significant bearing on their perception of life. Therefore, unlike other racial and ethnic minorities in the UK, this population group has a different set of social dynamics that distinguish them from other racial minorities such as Indian or Pakistani groups. Implicitly, studies that have assessed the impact of SES on ethnic and racial minorities cannot be generalised across the African-Caribbean population.

Besides the low levels of happiness and overall wellbeing among the African-Caribbean population, Cooper (2005) explains that African-Caribbean men have a higher risk of developing mental illnesses, which in turn affect their level of happiness and wellbeing. Compared to the white population, this argument relates with the high incidence of schizophrenia within the African-Caribbean population (Cooper, 2005). In other races, the differences in health outcomes between minority races and whites link to the genetic differences between the two races (Templeton, 1998). However, within the African-Caribbean population, Cooper (2005) says that the difference in health outcomes between whites and the African-Caribbean community can be associated with the discrimination that African-Caribbean people face in the UK. Indeed, only until recently, biological factors formed the main benchmark for understanding the high incidence of mental illnesses within the African-Caribbean population. For example, Choi & Clays (2008) report that African-Caribbean people get the wrong diagnosis for most easily detectable and treatable illnesses but because of racial bias, this does not happen. Cooper (2005) adds that African-Caribbean people experience racially induced stress, which compounds through significant level of bias emanating from their inferior social status.

Relationship between Mental Health Status and Economic Status

Choi & Clays (2008) believes mental health and economic statuses are important causes of not only individual happiness but the overall wellbeing of a person. The relationship between mental health status and individual wellbeing is complex but Choi & Clays (2008) posit that the causal links for these psychological factors are interconnected. For example, mental health affects individual happiness and earning ability affects mental health. Poor mental health affects individual earning ability because it affects educational achievement and employment status. Consequently, people suffering from poor mental health run a higher risk of suffering poor physical health and depression (Lorant & Deliège, 2003).

Das (2007) has investigated different guidelines for determining mental health in developing countries and established that different social statuses such as marriage, age, and sex have a profound impact on mental health. Das (2007) also established that widowed and aged people suffer a higher risk of developing poor mental health. However, Lorant & Deliège (2003) have a complex reading on the relationship between mental health and SES because they identify education levels to have a stronger impact on the mental health of some communities, as opposed to others.

A study done by Ardington & Case (2010) also affirm this observation and quote the findings of a study done in Indonesia, which showed that high education levels were an insulator to depression among Indonesians aged 45 years and above. However, within the same study, the researchers reported no direct relationship between per-capita household expenditure and mental health outcomes.

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Patel & Kleinman (2003) did a different study in 11 smaller communities and observed a negative association between education and mental disorders in all the studies, except for one. Studies investigating the effect of employment and income levels on mental health showed further complexities because a study done in South Africa showed low SES having a significant impact on health outcomes, but not on depression and anxiety. In the same study, Case and Deaton (2009) said, possessing many assets had a positive effect in insulating people against depression, but it had minimal effect in protecting people against poor health. One constant fact that prevailed throughout all the above studies was the increase of depression among aged respondents. Age is therefore a catalyst for developing depression and mental disorders (Meeks, 2000).

SES and Education

Poor housing and unemployment have often been associated with not only the African-Caribbean population but also other communities of African heritage in the UK (The Ligali Organisation, 2005). However, Elam (2001) reports that most Africans living in Britain have a high education qualification. He affirms that

“The proportion of black Africans born in Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa, as well as second generation black Africans, with a first university degree or higher ranged from 13% to 21%” (Elam, 2001, p. 2). Comparatively only 15% of whites have the same educational qualifications. This comparison prompted Elam (2001) to say

“Overall, black Africans were the most qualified ethnic group with 26% possessing

‘A’ level or higher qualifications, compared with 14% of those in the

white ethnic group” (p. 3). Elam & Chinouya (2000) explain the high level of education among immigrant black communities in Britain to reflect the selective nature of immigrant trends in the early years. Mostly, Africans living in Britain came to pursue higher education and many decided to stay in the country. This phenomenon mainly occurred in the 1960s and 1970s when many African countries were gaining independence. Therefore, immigrant populations in Britain (then) were the “crème of the society” because they were elite groups in Africa and other developing nations (Elam, 2001). Another group of immigrant was political asylum seekers. Some Africans who had initially migrated to Britain refused to go back home because of political instability back in their native lands.

Despite the apparent high education qualifications among communities with African heritage, Elam (2001) registers a strong disconnect between educational qualifications and employment status among communities of African heritage living in the UK. At this point, it is crucial to say, while many Africans gained professional and academic knowledge, they faced high levels of unemployment in their homelands and Britain. In addition, unlike most developing countries, Britain does not have a strong association of high-class status among non-manual or non-professional jobs (Elam, 2001). Therefore, even as communities of African backgrounds live in and work in the UK; they face a common denominator – low SES. Compared to other ethnic and racial groups living in the UK, communities of African heritage register the highest level of unemployment. Some reports say the rate of unemployment in some African communities living in Britain is as high as 44% (Princeton University, 2012). This figure is six times more than the rate of unemployment among whites in the same country (and higher than any other racial or ethnic group in Britain) (Princeton University, 2012). The high rates of unemployment among communities of African heritage in the UK baffled many sociologists who consequently did more studies to investigate this phenomenon. They came up with a series of observations. One finding showed the failure of Britons to recognise (or attach value) to some of the academic qualifications obtained in developing countries. Another finding showed that despite the high level of education among African communities, some still had poor English language skills. Lastly, the researchers said, employment restrictions reduced the likelihood of African communities to benefit from gainful employment in the country (Elam, 2001). Many African communities therefore lived in unemployed communities. According to Elam (2001), communities of African backgrounds are also the least likely to own a home. Most African communities live in overcrowded places as housing statistics show Africans are among the most likely racial groups to live in houses that share indoor bathrooms (Elam, 2001).

Since many African communities fail to get gainful employment, most of them decide to do manual labour. This job group classifies them as unskilled labourers. Some even decide to take more than one job so that they can support their families. This strain further compounds the fact that some African communities living in the UK have to send money back home and still compensate for their low-income pay in the UK. Because of such shifts in occupation, Elam (2001) says, “the derivation of social class from current or most recent occupation may not adequately portray the reality of people’s socio-economic experiences” (p. 4). Through this analysis, it is important to probe an immigrant’s preoccupation before relocation. This suggestion stems from the fact that once immigrants come to the UK, they experience a form of socioeconomic downgrade. It is common to hear stories among immigrants talking of their lives before they came to Britain. For example, some hailed from a high social class and did not have to interact with people from other social groups but when they came to the UK, they experienced a change in their status, and had to live with other immigrants in the country. According to Erens (2001), this change in social class or socioeconomic status has a profound impact on the mental health and overall wellbeing of immigrant groups. Adler (1994) also says, somewhat, cultural factors also have a role to play in the overall perception of happiness and mental health. For example, he explains that some African tribes rate people with businesses to be successful while other tribes do not have the same emphasis. Therefore, people who do not meet the cultural or community expectations are “failures.”

While trying to establish the influence of socioeconomic status on racial and ethnic minorities in the UK, Arai & Harding (2002) highlight the importance of understanding the context of diversity among different communities in Britain. For example, Arai & Harding (2002) states that some inherent differences in the backgrounds of some African communities have a strong influence on their experiences and beliefs. For example, first and second generation immigrants in the African-Caribbean community perceive happiness and personal wellbeing differently. People who came to Britain involuntarily had a higher likelihood of exhibiting discomfort and contempt in their lives (Ellison, 2001). Thus, some generational differences within African communities expose varying sets of beliefs, culture, and attitudes. Ellison (2001) explains that second generation African-Caribbean people in the UK share many beliefs, culture, and practices of other Britons. However, this view is contentious because some researchers believe second generation immigrants tend to exhibit some renewed interest about their heritage (Eaton, 2001). Some researchers believe that once these second-generation immigrants visit their homelands, they develop a very deep sense of attachment to their roots (Eaton, 2001).

Eaton (2001) also cites educational differences between first and second-generation immigrants as another difference in the perception of life among first and second-generation immigrants. He observes that first generation immigrants were less likely to perceive life positively because they potentially had little education (because of disruptions in education – due to conflict or other reasons). Barriers created by attitudes and educational policies also create the difference between first and second-generation immigrants.

Relationship between SES and Psychological Wellbeing

Interestingly, the Easterlin paradox states that income levels or SES does not have a consistent impact on peoples’ happiness. However, some researchers argue that low SES negatively affects peoples’ happiness (research studies investigating the impact of income levels on human happiness informs this view) (Choi & Clays, 2008). This ideology traces its roots to an old question investigating if money buys happiness. In response to a popular belief that social class affects individual happiness, Charles Dickens (cited in Choi & Clays, 2008) stated that the reaction and perception of people towards life (stressors) is the true cause of a persons’ happiness. Despite the belief that poverty or low SES diminishes a person’s overall level of happiness and wellbeing, Choi & Clays (2008) says, people can still be happy, despite their low socio economic status. Through these arguments and counter-arguments, there is a strong need to undertake more studies to investigate racial-specific effects of SES on psychological health.


The research methodology in this paper sought to gather relevant data and compile different psychological issues affecting unemployed African-Caribbean men in the UK. These insights helped to have a deeper and conceptual understanding of the research problem. In addition, the research methodology explored different aspects of the research problem by explaining the concept of socioeconomic status and its effect on individual happiness. These insights provided a deeper understanding of important factors that affect the happiness, wellbeing, and psychology of African-Caribbean men in the UK.

Research Design

Qualitative research was the main research design for this paper (the capability of qualitative research to be a precursor to quantitative research design informed its choice). The usefulness of the qualitative research design was limited to getting a comprehensive conceptualisation of the research problem (based on the backdrop of social and economic issues affecting African-Caribbean men in the UK). As will be evident in further sections of this study, this paper relies on case studies to develop a framework for the study’s recommendations. The choice for qualitative research design informs its ability to integrate case study research. The complex nature of the research topic also informed the use of the qualitative research design because it exposed the underlying dynamics of the research topic (Chapman, 2005). The simplicity of undertaking the qualitative research design was also a huge attraction for this research.

Sample Population

Considering the focus of the current study, instead of a probability sampling method, this paper used purposeful sampling. The purposeful sampling technique helped to provide an in-depth understanding of the research problem. To meet the aims of the study, it was crucial to establish a criterion for seeking participants. For example, potential research participants were required to be above 30 years, male, of African-Caribbean descent, speaking English and unemployed (at some point in their working lives). However, there were no strict guidelines regarding the respondents’ professions. Through a careful selection of research participants, the study used five male participants of African and Caribbean descents.

The recruitment of research participants occurred through word-of-mouth, flyers, and advertisement. On receiving a letter of interest, and establishment of contact with the respondents occurred to explore the convenient time and location of the prospective interview. Given the location of the interview could have an impact on the interviewees’ convenience to participate in the study; a pre-booked interview room was availed within the campus. This location played a vital role in constructing reality – serving simultaneously as both product and producer. When the respondents expressed reservations regarding this plan, care was taken to ensure that any other locations chosen to conduct the interview would be in an appropriate surrounding that emphasised comfort, privacy and freedom from distraction and serenity. Equally, in situations where the interview occurred in the participant’s home, for safety reasons, a third party knew the interview schedule and location.

Data Collection

The data collection process involved face-to-face, semi-structured interviews conducted by the researcher. Beforehand, the participants knew the nature and purpose of the study and therefore, they provided consent. The latest code of ethics and conduct developed by the British Psychological Society (2009) guided the interview process. The collection of basic demographic information from the participants (such as age, gender, employment, and family status) also occurred. A digital recorder recorded the interview. Finally, after the completion of the interview process, the provision of a debriefing period provided participants the opportunity to ask further questions and discuss their experiences of participation.

Data Analysis and Validity

The above data collection process provided the groundwork for a meta-analysis, which combined the findings from all data sources to form a framework for the research findings. Therefore, the meta-analysis estimated the true “effect size” of the data collected from the participants. Comprehensively, it was easy to achieve a systematic review of the research problem by eliminating the less-precise effects of the research information collected from the participants. There were several advantages realised from this meta-analysis. For instance, it was easy to establish the diversity of the researches obtained from the participants (the inclusion of diverse views in the interviews informed this diversity). Through the meta-analysis, it was equally easy to derive the statistical testing for all the factors involved throughout the progress of the research. Even though the concept of generalising the findings of this study across the African-Caribbean population is a limitation of this study, the meta-analysis helped to generalise the findings of this research to different but related contexts.

In addition, the quality of the primary data obtained was guaranteed by the credibility of the respondents obtained (all the respondents met the criterion for the research). The data analysis techniques incorporated in the data review process also strengthened the validity of the data obtained because two credible research analysis techniques informed the data analysis process – coding and member-check techniques. As an interpretive tool, the coding technique sorted and evaluated the expansive information obtained from the respondents (Aubel, 1994). Indeed, the respondents provided diverse information regarding the research topic but the coding technique aided in sorting out this information and categorising them into easily understandable data (the coding technique works by assigning different codes to related pieces of information) (Aubel, 1994). Since the pieces of information sourced from the respondents were diverse, the coding technique helped to assign codes to related information so that it was easier to analyse related literature as opposed to confusing the dynamic information sources (which were difficult to comprehend). The coding technique was beneficial in providing a structured impression of the overall findings.

The member-check technique played a complementary role to the coding technique by evaluating the credibility, transferability, and accuracy of the information analysed (from the coding technique). In detail, after categorising of data into related subjects (by the coding technique), the member-check technique ensured that the information sourced was factual (Daymon, 2010). The member check technique works by evaluating areas of disparities between the outcomes of the data analysis process and the authentic sources of information. Here, the member check technique ensured that the findings of the data analysis process reflected the opinions, ideas, context, and attitudes of the respondents. The same process also ensured there were no significant disparities between the sources of the data and the overall outcome of the data analysis process.

Ethics Statement

Informed consent

Obtaining the participants’ signatures was not only a vital part of the research process but also an indication of the participants’ willingness to cooperate in the research process. The participants’ decisions to participate in the study informed their understanding of the research process (participants knew the nature of the study before and during the research). After receiving ample time to decipher this information, the participants could easily understand the purpose, nature, and expected consequences of participating in the research. This provision also enabled participants to reflect on the potential benefits, risks, and possible discomforts of participating in the research. After evaluating the above factors, all the participants were able to sign (freely) the consent forms.


The entire research process was free from deceptive practices. Throughout the research process, the research occurred transparently and honestly. These principles prevailed throughout all stages of the data analysis process.

Right of withdrawal

From the outset of the study, participants knew their right to withdraw from the study (at any time) before the completion of the data analysis process. The participants also understood their right not to state the reasons for withdrawal because they enjoyed the right to participate in the research with full consent. The disclosure of these rights occurred in the invitation letter.

Anonymity & confidentiality

Before they participated in the study, the participants understood the concepts of confidentiality and protection of participants’ identities. For purposes of record keeping, it was vital to withhold the names and details of the participants (however, these details were not availed to the public). For future reference, data encryption and password security measures safeguarded the data. The participants knew from the initial meeting that only the supervisor and examiners were able to read extracts from the anonymous transcriptions of the interview. In addition, there were no further discussions of the respondents’ views (so that the identities of the respondents remained anonymous).

Protection of participants

Given the nature of the research, there were no expected hazards or risks involved. However, participants knew the details of the study supervisor (if they had questions or concerns about the study).

Research Findings

Several academic papers create the impression that a single factor affects individual happiness. However, according to the findings of this paper, several factors influence individual happiness. Moreover, psychological health also appears to be a product of individual perceptions and cultural intuitions. This assertion represents more than 30% of all respondents sampled who affirmed that discrimination, cultural perceptions, and community influences affected their perception of happiness and achievement.

Broadly, there was a clear relationship between emotional wellbeing and individual happiness. All the respondents sampled said that their emotional wellbeing was a reflection of their general state of happiness. From this open association, it was easier to link the factors influencing emotional wellbeing to the factors influencing individual happiness. For example, 70% of the respondents claimed their low SES had a strong influence on their overall wellbeing. However, it was interesting to see that most of the examples given to show the influence of SES on emotional wellbeing centred on physical and structural factors such as access to better education and better health facilities. Notably, there was no clear assertion regarding how their SES would affect their happiness, beyond the access to better education and better health facilities. This way, it was difficult to link the influence of SES and individual happiness.

However, the relationship between unemployment and low levels of happiness was vivid. All the respondents said unemployment made them vulnerable to social rebuke and economic vulnerability. All the respondents said they felt less happy than other people who had jobs. The respondents mentioned their inability to provide for their families as an effect of unemployment. This way, they felt less of a man. One respondent mentioned the pressure on men to provide for their families in the African community as one cultural influence that made him feel inadequate. For the period that he was unemployed, the respondent mentioned that he felt less of a man. He added that this made him feel inferior to other men and consequently, he felt stressed. Here, it is important to highlight a constant mention of the difficulties African-Caribbean people experienced to secure well-paying jobs. One respondent even exclaimed that African men with the qualifications for a good job still found it more difficult to secure a well-paying job, compared to white people with similar qualifications.

When the respondents needed to state how their social support systems affected their happiness and wellbeing, there was a common agreement that social support affects their happiness and wellbeing. Neighbours and family friends stood as the closest network of friends. Notably, the respondents said they believed their social support structures were relatively weak when compared to other races. One a respondent highlighted the close social support network Indians and other Asians in the country enjoy. When asked why they believed their social support was relatively weak, cultural factors and the nature of families in the African community surfaced as the main reasons for a weak social structure. For example, one respondent highlighted the closely-knit family structures of Asians as a cultural factor complementing their social support structures. He said they did not experience the same.

When asked to describe the effects that their low SES affected their social support structure, there was no notable link beyond what employment does to increase their social network. For example, the respondents felt, by lacking employment opportunities, they did not have colleagues or other professional organisations that offer complimentary social support. The social support systems that white people enjoyed from their work places (such as work retreats and other professional associations) received intense mention.

When the respondents needed to describe how they coped with life difficulties, there was a clear indication that most of them felt confident they could handle most life stressors. After careful probing, the historical difficulties that African and African-Caribbean immigrants experienced, surfaced as the major motivator to handle life stressors. In this regard, one respondent mentioned, “I have seen a lot, nothing would completely put me down.” Another respondent claimed that he is used to problems and therefore, he is prepared to handle any future life stressor. This way, the respondents felt better insulated against depression, stress, and other social or economic problems that may face them. When asked if they felt this mental insulation made them happier, there was some slight hesitation among three respondents because they said they wished their situation would improve because they were not happy with the problems they faced. Again, the respondents compared their situation with whites. There was a general agreement that white people were more sensitive to socioeconomic problems and therefore, their ability to cope with life stressors was comparatively low when compared to people with African heritage. When asked to explain their reasons for this idea, there was a common agreement that white people do not face many social or economic problems and therefore, they do not have first-hand experience with most life stressors. This way, the respondents believed that white people had a weaker mechanism of handling life stressors.

Interestingly, there was an unclear relationship between income levels and happiness among the respondents sampled. This ambiguity presents more questions regarding the influence of socioeconomic factors on individual happiness and the beliefs of African-Caribbean men about money, wealth, and material possessions. For example, three respondents demonstrated that their happiness was more dependent on non-economic factors like stronger social bonds, increased respect in the society, and a fair representation on local or national matters. The other respondents believed they would be happier if their socioeconomic status improved. However, when asked if non-economic factors would make them happier (too), they unanimously agreed.

Lastly, when the respondents needed describe their experiences and feelings about discrimination, all the respondents expressed contempt that the society still discriminates against racial minorities today. Sadness, rage, embarrassment, and isolation were some of the common words used by the respondents to describe their experiences in situations where they felt discriminated. Other respondents claimed they felt intimidated, humiliated, and threatened by racists. These feelings especially manifested in work contexts (or where there was a business relationship). When asked if discrimination affected their happiness and overall wellbeing, the respondents agreed that they would be happier if they received equal treatment. One respondent said he would have more self-confidence if he knew he would receive fair treatment. Another respondent claimed that because of discrimination, he felt the need to be more aggressive and assertive in seeking work or even in maintaining his position at work. When asked to state their views regarding the treatment of African-Caribbean people if they were more socioeconomically empowered, the respondents claimed African-Caribbean people would receive better treatment if they were socioeconomically empowered. The general feeling among the respondents hinged on the fact that African-Caribbean people felt despised because they had a low SES. Therefore, the respondents believed that if the African-Caribbean community were empowered, it would put them at the same level with other communities. This way, they believed they would be less discriminated.


From the findings of this paper, there is a direct relationship between socioeconomic factors and the happiness or wellbeing of African-Caribbean men. However, of significant interest is the influence of culture and community perception on success, happiness, and overall wellbeing of African-Caribbean men. Indeed, these cultural and racial influences have a significant influence on the beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of African-Caribbean men towards happiness and their contentment with life. For example, the influence of culture on success and the ability to handle life stressors is profound. Kim (2002) affirms this fact through a study done to investigate the effect of SES, social support, and acculturation on South Koreans. He identifies changes in values, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours to be the main manifestations of the influence of culture on individual happiness (Kim, 2002). By all accounts, African-Caribbean men living in Britain have to undergo some form of acculturation to the dominant culture. This forces them to adopt the values and lifestyles of the dominant culture. However, even as they do so, significant changes in mental health manifest. In the US, Hispanic men undergoing acculturation reported significant health concerns too (Bryant & Zimmerman, 2003). These health outcomes involved changes in health status, stress, and psychological distress.

Another dynamic exposed by Bryant & Zimmerman (2003) concern the confusion and anxiety realised when racial minorities expose themselves to an environment that does not resonate with their way of life. They explain that such situations may cause conflict and negative health outcomes (increased suicide rates, homicide, and substance abuse only show a few examples of such negative health outcomes) (Bryant & Zimmerman, 2003). Therefore, Bryant & Zimmerman (2003) encourage people to have a better adaptation to acculturation to enjoy better chances of realising positive health outcomes. Those that do not do so continue to suffer negative health outcomes (Bryant & Zimmerman, 2003). Comprehensively, African-Caribbean men in the UK constantly face cultural interactions that force them to adjust their ways of thinking and attitudes. The constant need to adjust and compromise improves their coping strategies and somewhat improves their ability to manage life stressors.

The influence of the African-Caribbean history also adds to the understanding of the attitudes and perceptions of African-Caribbean people. Faced with a long history of poverty, mistreatment, and second-class treatment, African-Caribbean men have had to contend with a low SES. Coupled with decreased opportunities for growth, unemployment, low educational levels, and discrimination, African-Caribbean men also have had to adjust their expectations of life (low) (Ball & David, 2002). Concisely, Odih (2002) says the history of African-Caribbean people has a role to play in their culture and way of life. Notably, decades of oppression and mistreatment has made many African-Caribbean people rethink their expectations and settle for what they have. Interestingly, this fact has made borderline performance acceptable in the African-Caribbean community and success has not been a pivotal part of individual happiness (Rhamie & Hallam, 2002).

Therefore, average success gains acceptability and is possibly praised. This situation has had a positive impact on the level of happiness and wellbeing among the African-Caribbean community because there is less pressure to succeed. Anjool (2005) affirms this relationship through the conduct of African-Caribbean students in education. For example, the need to further their education beyond high school has not been profound. Anjool (2005) attributes this fact to the informal understanding within the African community that success is achievable even without higher education. The same outcome manifests in the US. However, in the US, the influence of the media, African-American rappers and communal attitudes highlight the main causes of communal expectations towards success and happiness (Hooks, 2004).

Broadly, socioeconomic factors like better education, access to employment opportunities, and access to better health service affect African-Caribbean men the same way they do for other racial and ethnic groups. To this extent, we can affirm that a few common socioeconomic factors (like better education, access to employment opportunities, and access to better health services) affect everyone’s level of happiness and wellbeing. Indeed, Anjool (2005) affirms that there are common examples of modern-day needs that all races desire. Unfortunately, some of these socioeconomic opportunities are subject to SES.

Discrimination stands out as a major hindrance for African-Caribbean men to gain employment. This limits their chances to enjoy some social amenities obtained by belonging to a certain social group. At this point, it is crucial to mention that their happiness depends on how other racial groups fare. For example, most of the respondents measured their level of happiness and wellbeing to the white majority. Therefore, there is a possibility that the perceived high level of happiness among whites eroded any gains felt by the African-Caribbean minority. According to Anjool (2005), the contempt expressed by African-Caribbean men regarding their treatment in the society represents the underlying belief within the African-Caribbean society that they are often misunderstood and therefore left at the periphery of important socioeconomic issues.

One interesting finding in this study was the lack of direct relationship between SES and happiness. There was a clear depiction that non-economic factors like increased respect and deeper social bonds had a stronger influence on the level of happiness of the African-Caribbean community. The effect of non-economic factors of individual happiness is however not a new phenomenon because researchers such as Danev (2012) have identified that individual happiness stems from non-economic factors. For example, Danev (2012) identifies social interactions as a strong cause of individual happiness. He explains that when people socialise more, they become happier and livelier. Some researchers have affirmed this fact by stating that income levels influence individual happiness and emotional wellbeing levels off later (Princeton University, 2012, p. 1). Here, non-economic factors now have a stronger effect on peoples’ emotional wellbeing.

Therefore, from the above understanding, it is easier to understand why the respondents claimed that having stronger social ties and respect (lack of discrimination) would make them happier. At this point, it is important to highlight the influence of culture in the family structures of the African-Caribbean community. Anjool (2005) says African-Caribbean people have a stronger attachment to family cohesion and community integration more than some racial groups. This strong emphasis on family bond explains the identification of social bonds as an important cause of happiness among the respondents sampled.

Besides family bonds, this paper largely shows that African-Caribbean men have a lower level of happiness and sense of wellbeing compared to other racial groups. Previous research studies have explained this phenomenon by showing that African-Caribbean people suffer a higher risk of mental illness. For example, Bhugra (1997) highlights the high incidence of schizophrenia within the African-Caribbean community. In addition, studies done on African-Caribbean people showed that there was a high level of psychosis among this racial group (Kirkbride & Barker, 2008). Darling (2006) also affirms this view, but he pools the African-Caribbean community and Asians living in Britain as a vulnerable group that suffers a higher risk of developing a severe spectrum of diseases. White people were identified not suffer the same risks. Researchers attribute this observation to environmental factors and the social disadvantages that African-Caribbean people and other racial minorities in the UK face (Anjool, 2005). There is however a counter argument proposing, the role of genetics in understanding this relationship.

Applegate (2000) shows a strong relationship between low SES and depression within the African-Caribbean population. To support this view, Badger (2000) posits that racial minorities with low SES have a higher psychiatric morbidity and higher rates of depression. However, within this study, the relationship between SES and depression is controversial because other factors such as region and time have played a role in understanding this relationship. Applegate (2000) believes that 60% of the difference in mental status, between the African-Caribbean community and whites links to SES. This conclusion not only reflects the opinions of European researchers but also the opinions of researchers in South Africa. A contrast hereby manifests to associate low SES among the African-Caribbean population in Britain with South Africans in the same situation (Badger, 2000). The same studies show that household expenditure in white and African households mirror the main correlates influencing depression levels within the two households. The number of assets owned by the two racial groups also influences their social comfort and happiness. Therefore, the notion of unemployment and hunger are just a few indicators of a low level of happiness and depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms among people of African backgrounds are more profound during early adulthood and the middle ages. This observation highlights an interesting observation in this study, which showed that African-Caribbean men felt more pressure to provide for their families and succeed because of cultural factors. Indeed, Diemer (2002) explains that the African-Caribbean culture (and by extension, the African culture) emphasises the role of men as providers while women are regarded homemakers. The role of women as homemakers may not garner much respect in Britain but still, the role of men as providers has not eroded. Unemployment hinders the ability of men to provide for their families. This way they are more vulnerable to sympathy, rebuke, and humiliation from their peers regarding their inadequacies to provide for their families. To this extent, it is easier to understand the attitudes and perceptions of African-Caribbean men towards unemployment and happiness.


It is incorrect to assume low SES has a negative effect on everyone. As Hopkinson & Jenkinson (2000) observe, such a belief is a wrong approach to understanding peoples’ health, happiness, or overall wellbeing. Instead, he identifies the right approach of evaluating people’s level of happiness or overall wellbeing to be a custom approach analysing people’s lifestyles, customs, beliefs, religion, and even personalities. From this perspective, this paper demonstrates that it is only right to refrain from generalising the impact of low SES on African-Caribbean men on all aspects of psychological health. Instead, it is correct to evaluate the impact of low SES on happiness or wellbeing, based on unique cultural dynamics that distinguish African-Caribbean men from other racial and ethnic minorities in the UK. Comprehensively, this paper shows that unemployment and low SES has a negative impact on the psychological health, emotional ties, and the social support of African-Caribbean men. However, this paper demonstrates that unemployment and low SES improve their coping strategies, but increase their level of discrimination (individual happiness, depends (mostly) on non-economic factors). Lastly, the lack of a consensus regarding how conventional causes of happiness such as income levels affect the overall happiness and wellbeing of different individuals does not eliminate the belief that a poor socioeconomic status would negatively affect the happiness or wellbeing of an individual or a community. A contextual approach is most appropriate to understand this phenomenon.


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