Friday, November 17, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Mann Library Rm 102
Life Course Lens on Health Inequality: The Intersection of Race, Nativity and Aging
Abstract: Health inequality in America is stark. Understanding how social inequality leads to unequal health outcomes in later life is particularly important given that the older population in the U.S. is growing and diversifying with respect to race/ethnicity and nativity. While health inequalities related to race/ethnicity, immigration, and age are well documented, it remains unclear how these bases of stratification combine to shape health trajectories, especially in middle and late life. This study addresses gaps in the literature by drawing on life course and intersectionality perspectives to examine how racial/ethnic inequality, immigration, and aging intersect to influence morbidity trajectories. I use growth curve models applied to data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the life course patterning of health inequalities among U.S.- and foreign-born non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans between the ages of 51 and 80 (N=16,265). Results reveal that racial/ethnic minorities and immigrants have very different aging and health experiences than their white and native-born counterparts. Findings are consistent with the weathering hypothesis: U.S.- and foreign-born blacks and Mexican Americans experience earlier health deterioration and they also exhibit steeper health declines with age in many instances, compared to U.S.-born whites. Moreover, results indicate that healthy immigrant and erosion effects are contingent on race/ethnicity and age. Whereas white immigrants have a persistent heath advantage, black and Mexican American immigrants tend to experience a health disadvantage that increases over time, relative to U.S.-born whites. Findings highlight the utility of life course and intersectionality perspectives for understanding health inequality.