Financial Hardship, the Accumulation of Wealth, and Health Disparities at Older Ages

Joan R. Kahn, University of Maryland
Elena Fazio, University of Maryland

With the goal of better understanding health disparities at older ages, this paper examines the impact of past financial hardship on race differences in wealth and health in later life. We argue that persistent financial hardship is likely to hinder lifetime earnings and the accumulation of assets, ultimately placing older adults at higher risk for chronic disease and disability. To the extent that whites and blacks have faced different levels of hardship and accumulated different levels of wealth, we expect these factors to help explain the persistent race gap in health. Our analysis is based on data from the Aging Stress and Health (ASH) study which interviewed over 1100 white and black adults ages 65 years and over, residing in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. We utilize retrospective reports of financial hardship over the life course, and current measures of accumulated wealth to predict current physical and mental health outcomes.

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Presented in Session 129: SES and Health across the Life Course