Racial and ethnic differences in wealth in the Health and Retirement Study

by James P. Smith

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This paper examines wealth data in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). In comparison with asset data in other major surveys, the quality of HRS asset data is high. Missing asset data do remain a problem, however, to which future HRS analysts must remain sensitive. Evidence is presented showing that it is no accident that asset data are missing, and solutions for imputing missing data are developed. Finally, racial and ethnic wealth disparities are large. These minority wealth disparities are due in part to differential inheritances and desired bequests as inequities perpetuate themselves across generations; the disparities are also due to lower minority incomes, poorer health, and an excessively narrow definition of wealth that excludes Social Security and employer pensions.

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Originally published in: The Journal of Human Resources, v. 30, suppl., 1995, pp. S158-S183.

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