Racial/Ethnic and Gender Trajectories of Functional Impairment: Exploring Between- and Within-Group Heterogeneity

David F. Warner, Case Western Reserve University
Jielu Lin, Case Western Reserve University
Tyson Brown, Vanderbilt University

Numerous prior studies have examined racial/ethnic and gender disparities in health trajectories focusing on between-group differences, but few have considered how within-group heterogeneity is also shaped by racial/ethnic/gender opportunity structures. We use the 1994-2006 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine between- and within-group heterogeneity in age-trajectories of functional limitations among white, black and Mexican American men and women aged 53 to 75. We find disparities in the initial level of functional limitations between racial/ethnic/gender groups but largely similar rates of change with age. Differences in life course capital account for initial disparities between-groups. However, there is substantial heterogeneity within racial/ethnic/gender groups. Within black and Mexican American women, health insurance disparities partially explain the wide variability in functional limitation trajectories. We conclude that there is a substantial amount of non-ignorable within-group heterogeneity, which varies considerably across racial/ethnic/gender groups and potentially contributes to between-group stratification in health and functioning with age.

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Presented in Poster Session 6