Understanding How Race/Ethnicity and Gender Define Age-Trajectories of Disability: An Intersectionality Approach

David F. Warner, Case Western Reserve University
Tyson H. Brown, Duke University

Prior studies have demonstrated health disparities among racial/ethnic groups or between men and women; few have considered how race/ethnicity and gender combine to affect older adults’ health. Here, we take an intersectionality approach, grounded in life course theory, conceptualizing and modeling trajectories of disability as jointly defined by race/ethnicity and gender. We use the 1994-2004 Health and Retirement Study to examine intra-individual change in functional limitations among white, black and Mexican American men and women, and the extent to which differences in life course capital account for group disparities. Results support an intersectionality approach: white men had the lowest levels of disability at baseline, white women and minority men intermediate levels, and black and Hispanic women the highest levels. These disparities that remained stable with age. Dissimilar early life origins, adult SES, marital status, and health behaviors fully explained the racial/ethnic disparities among men but only partially so among women.

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Presented in Session 93: Race, Gender and Health Outcomes