KU News: Study shows wealth does not ensure equal amounts of health across race, ethnicity

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Study shows wealth does not ensure equal amounts of health across race, ethnicity

LAWRENCE — A recently published University of Kansas analysis of national data and reports of mental health and well-being showed that it takes more financial assets for people of color to have the same health outcomes as white Americans. Further, the study found that unsecured debt is associated with better health among white individuals but is linked to worse health outcomes for people of color. That indicates policy is needed to address wealth disparities from the earliest stages of life, according to study author Sicong “Summer” Sun, assistant professor of social welfare at KU.

Research, new recordings bring works of 20th century Ecuadorian composer to light

LAWRENCE – Ecuadorian composer Luis Humberto Salgado was so far ahead of his time that neither he nor the public in Quito, where he lived, heard most of his orchestral and chamber music works performed during his life (1903-1977). But now a new project organized by a University of Kansas professor of ethnomusicology is bringing Salgado’s work to a worldwide audience. Not only has KU published and distributed 13 Salgado compositions for chamber music for the first time, but School of Music faculty members have recorded four of the compositions for a new album issued on the Naxos label. A recording of six more compositions is scheduled for release in 2024.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings

Study shows wealth does not ensure equal amounts of health across race, ethnicity

LAWRENCE — Money may not buy happiness, as the saying goes, but it can buy health — to an extent. A new study from the University of Kansas has found that the same amount of wealth does not ensure the same level of positive health outcomes for everyone.

An analysis of national data and reports of mental health and well-being showed that it takes more financial assets for people of color to have the same health outcomes as white Americans. Surprisingly, the study found that unsecured debt is associated with better health among white individuals but is linked to worse health outcomes for people of color. That indicates policy is needed to address wealth disparities from the earliest stages of life, the study’s author wrote.

Sicong “Summer” Sun, assistant professor of social welfare at KU, analyzed data on wealth, assets, debt and other socioeconomic factors and compared that with the self-reported physical and mental health of more than 7,000 Americans ages 30-36. The data was part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which periodically collects data from participants on various aspects of their lives. The study was published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

Wealth is often measured as net worth by calculating total assets minus total debt. Though net worth provides helpful information on household socioeconomic standing and economic resources, it provides little information on the most effective approaches to intervene. To address this gap, Sun analyzed individuals’ wealth as a measure of their financial assets, such as savings, retirement plans, stocks and bonds; nonfinancial assets, including real estate and vehicle value; secured debt, such as mortgages; and unsecured debt, including student loans, credit card debt and payday loans.

“I want to dissect the components of wealth and assess how they are associated with health,” said Sun, who is also a faculty affiliate with the Toni Johnson Center for Racial & Social Justice. “I think the findings can be very helpful in identifying potential policy and program levers to help ensure better wealth and health outcomes for all. There are various types of assets and debts, each of which is linked to health differently.”

The study found that financial assets and secured debt were positively associated with self-rated health and mental health. Unsecured debt was negatively associated with mental health. Efforts to expand and improve financial access and inclusion, such as emergency savings, banking and financial services, affordable credit and affordable housing loans may yield health benefits in addition to economic well-being. Thus, interdisciplinary research collaboration and cross-sector partnerships could be productive, Sun said.

However, the relationships between wealth and health vary by race/ethnicity, the results showed. The study analyzed wealth and health outcomes for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic Americans.

“I think one of the most interesting findings is in relation to unsecure debt,” Sun said. “In this life stage (30-36), I found of all types of assets and debts, the prevalence and amount were highest for white young adults. For example, 74% of non-Hispanic white young adults reported having unsecured debt, in contrast to 57% of non-Hispanic Black young adults. Unsecured debt was protective of health for white respondents but was detrimental for people of color, especially Black young adults. This indicates that debt carries various social and economic implications, challenges and ways of affecting people, and these aspects differ between white Americans and people of color.”

Other aspects of socioeconomic status also proved to be important for health. Racial disparities in self-rated health were attenuated by controlling for income, education, employment and net worth. This finding points to the importance of addressing socioeconomic inequities during young adulthood, Sun said.

“Not surprisingly, disparities emerge early in life for people of color,” Sun said. “Thinking about policy and program interventions like asset building and debt relief are helpful, not only for helping people attain assets, but ensuring better health outcomes throughout the life course.”

The findings add to Sun’s previous work on the effects of wealth on health in young adulthood.

The results also show the importance of policy that begins to address wealth and health disparities from a young age, such as universal child development accounts and baby bonds. Additionally, addressing unsecured debt through policy such as student loan forgiveness could yield health benefits, especially for people of color, Sun said. Such policies could help address structural injustices and lead to better health outcomes for all, which in turn would have a positive social and economic effect.

“Money can buy health to a certain extent, but not at the same level for everyone,” Sun said. “Simply having more money or resources isn’t enough to make sure everyone is equally healthy. We must critically examine how the systemic power structure is linked to the social construction of race. It is important to address historical legacies of inequities in financial systems.”

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman

Research, new recordings bring works of 20th century Ecuadorian composer to light

LAWRENCE – Ecuadorian composer Luis Humberto Salgado was so far ahead of his time that neither he nor the public in Quito, where he lived, heard most of his orchestral and chamber music works performed during his life (1903-1977).

“He wrote music for a large symphony orchestra that didn’t exist yet in Ecuador,” said Ketty Wong, University of Kansas associate professor of ethnomusicology.

The compositions he wrote were inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique and existed only in Salgado’s mind and in handwritten paper form. For years after his death, the manuscripts languished in an heir’s closet.

But now a new project organized by Wong is bringing Salgado’s work to a worldwide audience. Not only has KU published and distributed 13 Salgado compositions for chamber music — set down in formal musical notation and with the instruments’ individual parts — for the first time, but School of Music faculty members have recorded four of the compositions for a new album issued on the Naxos label. A recording of six more compositions is scheduled for release in 2024.

The teaching musicians — pianist Ellen Sommer, cellist Hannah Collins, violinist David Colwell and violist Boris Vayner — and the musicologist traveled in October to Ecuador to present copies of the recordings and the sheet music to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and to present concerts of Salgado’s music. They were hosted by the House of Music in the capital city, Quito, and University of the Arts in Guayaquil.

“Salgado is considered Ecuador’s most prominent composer because he was a pioneer in combining vernacular music with the avant-garde techniques of his time, and he did so in creative and idiosyncratic ways. He was also very prolific in his musical output,” said Wong, who is a native of Guayaquil. “He has nine symphonies like Beethoven, four operas, seven concertos and numerous works for piano and chamber ensemble. No other composer had approached these genres in Ecuador in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.”

He wrote works for a large symphony orchestra, and Ecuador didn’t have one until 1956, after Salgado had already composed his first three symphonies, and even then, it was not large enough to perform Salgado’s major works completely, Wong said.

She said Salgado used folk motifs in his music but filtered them through Schoenberg’s dissonant system so that the public did not understand or recognize his portrayal of Ecuadorian music.

“He was a pianist, and he performed frequently in Quito,” Wong. “He was the director of the National Conservatory, where he taught music theory and harmony. He also had a newspaper column, where he published articles about his views on modern music in the 1960s and ’70s. So he was a public figure. People knew and respected him, but they didn’t know his music.”

Wong said she was inspired by a 1989 issue of an Ecuadorian music journal dedicated to Salgado to begin the process of rectifying that. She reached out to Salgado’s heirs, who allowed her to photocopy two of his symphony manuscripts for her master’s degree research.

Despite the centenary of his birth in 2003, shortly after which Wong’s master’s thesis was published, and his heirs having sold his manuscripts, which wound up with the Ministry of Culture, most of Salgado’s music remained unpublished and unheard, Wong said.

“In 2017, there was suddenly an interest among symphony orchestra conductors to play new works by Ecuadorian composers,” she said. “They began to play the symphonies. And they all came to me to ask, ‘Where can I find the music scores? Can you tell me more about Salgado?’ Now his nine symphonies are recorded. They have been performed in Ecuador since 2017. And then I thought it was time to go back to Salgado and publish a book in English so that he and his music are better known outside of Ecuador.”

Wong is working on that book now.

Meanwhile, the KU School of Music backed her project, which resulted in the publication of the sheet music in 2020 and now the recordings and performances.

“The project was to make his music audible and accessible so that people can play it and enjoy it, because I think he’s a composer that speaks to the time in which he lived,” Wong said.

For instance, one of his newly published compositions was inspired by the U.S. moon landing in 1969.

“Scholars have studied the effects of the 12-tone technique in the works of composers in the U.S. and Europe,” Wong said, “but we know little about how this technique was received in Latin America.”

Now that Salgado’s music is out there, Wong feels sure it will resonate.

“Musicians always look for new repertoire, and, especially given the push for diversity, musicians want to perform music of underrepresented composers,” she said.

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