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The Black-White difference in age trajectories of functional health over the life course

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  • Kim, Jinyoung
  • Miech, Richard

Abstract

This study examines whether the racial disparity in functional health grows unabated over the adult life course - the cumulative disadvantage hypothesis - or shrinks among the oldest old - the age-as-leveler hypothesis. Special emphasis is placed on the role of socioeconomic status (SES), which is highly associated with race. The analysis uses latent growth-curve modeling to examine differences in age trajectories of functional health between Black and White Americans and is based on nationally representative panel data of 3497 adults. Results cautiously support the age-as-leveler hypothesis. Net of functional health at baseline, Black adults experience a growing disadvantage in functional health over time until the oldest ages, when the gap in functional health begins to shrink. Results indicate that the potential leveling mechanisms of age may be specific to women. SES including financial assets explains the divergence in functional health across young and middle-aged Black and White adults, but not the later-life convergence. This study reveals the life-course pattern of racial disparity in functional health and suggests that more theoretical development is needed in this field to explain why the age-as-leveler and cumulative disadvantage processes are different for functional health than for other outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Kim, Jinyoung & Miech, Richard, 2009. "The Black-White difference in age trajectories of functional health over the life course," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 717-725, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:4:p:717-725
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Schaan, Barbara, 2014. "The interaction of family background and personal education on depressive symptoms in later life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 94-102.
    2. Halleröd, Björn & Gustafsson, Jan-Eric, 2011. "A longitudinal analysis of the relationship between changes in socio-economic status and changes in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 116-123, January.
    3. Boen, Courtney, 2016. "The role of socioeconomic factors in Black-White health inequities across the life course: Point-in-time measures, long-term exposures, and differential health returns," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 63-76.
    4. Jeffrey T. Howard & P. Johnelle Sparks, 2016. "The Effects of Allostatic Load on Racial/Ethnic Mortality Differences in the United States," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 35(4), pages 421-443, August.
    5. Warner, David F. & Brown, Tyson H., 2011. "Understanding how race/ethnicity and gender define age-trajectories of disability: An intersectionality approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1236-1248, April.
    6. Jeremy Pais, 2014. "Cumulative Structural Disadvantage and Racial Health Disparities: The Pathways of Childhood Socioeconomic Influence," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(5), pages 1729-1753, October.
    7. Martin Siegel & Markus Luengen & Stephanie Stock, 2013. "On age-specific variations in income-related inequalities in diabetes, hypertension and obesity," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 58(1), pages 33-41, February.

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