The Causal Pathway from Socioeconomic Status to Disability Trajectories in Later Life: The Importance of Mediating Mechanisms for Onset and Accumulation

Miles G. Taylor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Demographers have studied the connection of socioeconomic status and disability among older adults for some time. However, the effects of the components of SES (education, income) over time have not been fully explored, nor have their mediating mechanisms. Using the Duke EPESE sample and a novel approach to trajectory analysis, I examine the independent effects of education and income on disability and explore the mechanisms hypothesized as shared and independent mediators in health stratification literature. I find education’s effect is preventive, where income also serves a muting effect on accumulation. Obesity, smoking, and mastery partially mediate the effect of education, where assets and access to care mediate income effects. The roles of mastery and assets were particularly pervasive in decreasing the slope of disability over time. These findings speak to the examination of life course components of SES in later life and to the timing and effectiveness of interventions.

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Presented in Session 144: Socioeconomic Status and Health: Causation and Selection