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Using Multiple-hierarchy Stratification and Life Course Approaches to Understand Health Inequalities


This study examines how the intersecting consequences of race-ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics status (SES), and age influence health inequality. We draw on multiple-hierarchy stratification and life course perspectives to address two main research questions. First, does racial-ethnic stratification of health vary by gender and/or SES? More specifically, are the joint health consequences of racial-ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic stratification additive or multiplicative? Second, does this combined inequality in health decrease, remain stable, or increase between middle and late life? We use panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 12,976) to investigate between- and within-group differences in in self-rated health among whites, blacks, and Mexican Americans. Findings indicate that the effects of racial-ethnic, gender, and SES stratification are interactive, resulting in the greatest racial-ethnic inequalities in health among women and those with higher levels of SES. Furthermore, racial-ethnic/gender/SES inequalities in health tend to decline with age. These results are broadly consistent with intersectionality and aging-as-leveler hypotheses.

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