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Wealth and the Health of Older Black Women in the United States
Oxford University Press

Link to Publication

Researcher(s): (Andy Sharma)


Public health scholars and policy-makers are concerned that the United States continues to experience unmanageable health care costs while struggling with issues surrounding access and equity. To addresses these and other key issues, the National Academy of Medicine held a public symposium, Vital Directions for Health and Health Care: A National Conversation during September 2016, with the goal of identifying clear priorities for high-value health care and improved well-being. One important area was addressing social determinants of health. This article contributes to this objective by investigating the impact of wealth on older Black women’s health. Employing the 2008/2010 waves of the RAND Health and Retirement Study on a sample of 906 older Black women, this panel study examined self-assessed health ratings of very good/good/fair/poor within a relaxed random effects framework, thereby controlling for both (i) observed and (ii) unobserved individual-level heterogeneity. This analysis did not find a statistically significant association with wealth despite a difference of approximately $75,000 in its valuation from very good to poor health. This also occurred after wealth was (i) readjusted for outliers and (ii) reformulated as negative, no change or positive change from 2008. This finding suggests that wealth may not play as integral a role. However, the outcome was significant for earnings and education, particularly higher levels of education. Scholars should further this inquiry to better understand how earnings/education/wealth operate as social determinants of health for minority populations.

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