Demographic and Economic Correlates of Health in Old Age

by James P. Smith, Raynard Kington

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This paper examines gender, race, and ethnic disparities in health outcomes among older Americans using an important new survey — the Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old (AHEAD). The paper is divided into six main sections. The first sketches the implications of the theoretical model used to analyze health status, while the second describes the survey and demographic differences in two salient dimensions of health outcomes in old age — the prevalence of chronic conditions and the extent of functional limitations. A brief description of the principal explanatory variables and a justification for the statistical models used are outlined in the third section. The fourth and fifth sections highlight the differential impact on health outcomes of alternative sources of income and health and the role that health risk factors play in promoting good health. The paper concludes with a summary of the implications of this research for gender, racial, and ethnic health disparities.

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