Race/Ethnic and Nativity Differentials in Mid-Life and Late-Life Disability in the United States

Jennifer E. Melvin, University of Texas at Austin
Robert A. Hummer, University of Texas at Austin

Very little research has investigated detailed race/ethnic and nativity differences in disability among U.S. adults. This study examines race/ethnic and nativity differences in functional disability during middle and late life for men and women across ten major sub-groups of the population. We also assess the extent to which educational attainment helps to explain group differences in disability. We use ten years of data from the National Health Interview Survey to make these detailed comparisons. Results indicate that while middle-aged foreign-born individuals in every sub-group experience relatively low rates of disability, this pattern is reversed in late life for both men and women. Moreover, most minority groups have significantly higher disability relative to non-Hispanic whites in both middle and late life, even net of education, with women reporting the highest rates. The differences we report have important implications for health service and policy geared toward the rapidly diversifying aging population.

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Presented in Session 26: Differentials in Late-Life Health