Understanding measures of racial discrimination and microaggressions among American Indian and Alaska Native college students in the Southwest United States

Brenna L. Greenfield, Jessica H.L. Elm, Kevin A. Hallgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Racial discrimination, including microaggressions, contributes to health inequities, yet research on discrimination and microaggressions has focused on single measures without adequate psychometric evaluation. To address this gap, we examined the psychometric performance of three discrimination/microaggression measures among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) college students in a large Southwestern city. Methods: Students (N = 347; 65% female; ages 18–65) completed the revised-Everyday Discrimination Scale, Microaggressions Distress Scale, and Experiences of Discrimination measure. The psychometric performance of these measures was evaluated using item response theory and confirmatory factor analyses. Associations of these measures with age, gender, household income, substance use, and self-rated physical health were examined. Results: Discrimination and microaggression items varied from infrequently to almost universally endorsed and each measure was unidimensional and moderately correlated with the other two measures. Most items contributed information about the overall severity of discrimination and collectively provided information across a continuum from everyday microaggressions to physical assault. Greater exposure to discrimination on each measure had small but significant associations with more substance use, lower income, and poorer self-rated physical health. The Experiences of Discrimination measure included more severe forms of discrimination, while the revised-Everyday Discrimination Scale and the Microaggressions Distress Scale represented a wider range of severity. Conclusions: In clinical practice, these measures can index varying levels of discrimination for AI/ANs, particularly for those in higher educational settings. This study also informs the measurement of racial discrimination and microaggressions more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1099
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R36DA034112 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and grant K01AA024796 and T32 AA018108 from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), and a University of New Mexico Graduate Research Development Award. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH, NIDA, or NIAAA. The funding body played no role in the design of the study, the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data, or the writing of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • College students
  • Item response theory
  • Microaggressions
  • Racial discrimination


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