Trajectories and Patterns of Wealth in Later Life: Implications for Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Health

TitleTrajectories and Patterns of Wealth in Later Life: Implications for Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Health
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsChen, Y-shih
Academic DepartmentSocial Work
UniversityWashington University in St. Louis
Keywordshealth, Wealth

This study aims to contribute to our understanding of the longitudinal link between wealth and health in later life. Prior research on the wealth-health relationship has focused on general households, with little consideration for older adults. Further, several gaps are identified in the literature. For example, studies often utilize a shorter window of observation and treat wealth as a static measure without considering the trajectory and the heterogeneity of wealth over time. In addition, prior studies often explore the impact of wealth on a single aspect of health, ignoring the “codependent” nature of health at older ages. Further, the impacts of life course factors on the development of wealth are not often tested, and such effects are not accounted for when examining the “wealth-health” nexus, creating issues of endogeneity. Using life-cycle hypothesis, cumulative dis/advantage model, and asset-based welfare theory, this study addresses these issues by exploring how life course factors relate to wealth trajectory in later life, and investigating the longitudinal relationship between wealth and multidimensional health when life course factors are simultaneously modeled. Using latent growth curve modeling (LGCM) and latent growth mixture modeling (LGMM) via the structural equation modeling approach and generalized propensity score analysis, this study analyzes data from six biennial waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national representative panel study of Americans aged 51 and older. This study has three research aims. It first explores the trajectory of wealth of older Americans between 2004 and 2014, and examines how life course factors correlate with wealth trajectory. Models of quadratic function and piece-wise function that allow the testing of the spline in the wealth trajectory are used as additional tests to examine the impact of the 2008 economic recession on the wealth trajectory. Second, physical, mental, and cognitive health are entered in the model to examine how health outcomes individually and jointly respond to the wealth trajectory. Finally, it uses LGMM to identify heterogeneous patterns in both wealth and health, and employs generalized propensity score analysis to explore the longitudinal associations between wealth patterns and health patterns when the effect of life course factors on wealth were modeled. This study contributes to the field methodologically and substantively. It uses novel methods to explore the trajectory and patterns of wealth in later life and examines the longitudinal wealth-health nexus by accounting for endogeneity. It offers strong evidence about the relationship between wealth and health, and provides policy and research implications for strengthening economic security and positive health at older ages.

Citation Key10424