Recommending Feasible Measures of Wealth in Health Research

Catherine Cubbin, University of Texas at Austin
Craig Pollack, University of Texas at Austin
Brian Flaherty, University of Washington
Ayesha Sania, Harvard School of Public Health
Donna Vallone, LEGACY For Longer Healthier Lives
Paula Braveman, University of California, San Francisco

Wealth measures are rarely included in health research, in large part due to respondent burden. Using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances (ages 25-64) and the 2004 Health and Retirement Survey (ages 50+), a series of reduced measures of net worth--based on the most prevalent or the highest proportion assets and debts--were tested against the gold standard measure--based on all available sources of assets and debts--for health status and current smoking. We found independent associations between wealth (however measured) and health. However, measures based on dollar values tended to have stronger associations, and measures based on summary (yes/no) indices had weaker associations, compared to the gold standard measure. The strength of associations between the control variables with each health measure was nearly identical, regardless of the wealth measure. Measures of wealth with reduced respondent burden are feasible and should be more widely adopted in health research.

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Presented in Poster Session 7