Wealth Ownership and Declining Health in the U.S.
PI: Lisa A. Keister, James W. Woody
Recent declines in population health in the U.S. are likely to reflect dramatic changes in household wealth that have occurred over the same period. The association between broad measures of household wealth and overall health is well-documented, but the conditions under which the relationship holds are unclear. In particular, we know little about how specific financial states are associated with particular health outcomes and how this association operates for critical subpopulations. These details have the potential to clarify both the broad wealth-health connection and to provide information about the health of subpopulations such as middle- and lower-wealth households, racial/ethnic minorities, older adults, and women.
We have three interrelated aims that will clarify how and when wealth affects health. First, we propose to provide updated estimates of the association between family wealth and health outcomes. We will explore how the association varies across the wealth distribution, by particular assets and debts, and across a large number of specific health outcomes. We will also study how the wealth-health relationship varies by race/ethnicity and gender. Second, we propose to study how the association between wealth and health varies over time including over the life course and as a result of the 2007-09 recession. We will focus on the potential protective effects of saved assets on health outcomes following retirement, and we will examine whether these patterns vary by wealth status, race/ethnicity, and gender. Third, we propose to explore whether family networks mediate the relationship between wealth and health. Our proposed research is particularly innovative because we will conceive of families as social networks, and we will use cutting-edge methods of social network analysis to study the dynamics of the wealth-health relationship and to disentangle the potential protective effects of family. We will study whether the structure, density, and dynamics of family networks ameliorate the relationship between wealth and health; and we will explore whether the role of family networks varies by wealth status, race/ethnicity, and gender. We will also examine these relationships over the life course and over time.
We propose using three survey datasets to study these processes. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and the Survey of Consumer Finances each include data about both wealth and health, and using them together will allow us to fully explore our specific aims. We will use various multivariate modeling techniques to study each relationship, including using quantile regression to study differences across the wealth distribution, growth models to study changes over time, and social network analysis to study the role of family networks.