SES Differentials in Health by Age and Alternative Indicators of SES

Despite the general persistence and even increase of strong socioeconomic status (SES) differentials in health in the United States, research suggests that SES differentials in health may diminish or become nonexistent at older ages. However, most research has used only limited measures of SES (e.g. education, income), and has not thoroughly investigated intra-elderly age differences in this trend. The current study investigates how SES differentials in health vary by age in the United States, using fairly detailed age categories (through ages 85+), and 2 alternative indicators (home ownership and liquid assets) of a major additional dimension of SES, financial assets, which may be especially important at older ages. We address (a) how strongly financial assets are associated with health, considered both alone and net of education and income; (b) if the health effects of financial assets vary by age; and, more specifically, (c) if their effects are especially pronounced in older age, again considered both alone and net of or relative to education and income. Results show that financial assets, especially liquid assets, considered both alone and net of education and income, are associated with health throughout adulthood and old age, at least until ages 85+. Furthermore, financial assets remain associated with health until quite late in life and become more important relative to education and income at older ages for some measures of health.