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Families in Later Life

Families in Later Life <p>The implications of economic inequality for American families are profound, giving rise to widening race and socioeconomic disparities in key family transitions including marriage, divorce, cohabitation, childrearing, and family bereavement. However, little scholarly attention focuses on how these divergences in family structure shape the health and well-being of older adults, and especially older women. In this chapter, I propose that family relationships are an important although overlooked mechanism linking economic inequality to persistent race, socioeconomic, and gender disparities in late-life well-being. I provide a statistical snapshot of older adults’ families, showing how rates of marriage, divorce, widowhood, and remarriage differ markedly on the basis of gender, socioeconomic status, and race, with these disparities widening against the backdrop of rising economic inequality in the late 20th and early 21th centuries. I then describe how these patterns perpetuate disparities in late-life economic well-being, due in part to the structure of Social Security benefits which advantage those whose family lives conformed to the mid-20th century White middle-class “ideal” of a lifelong marriage between a male breadwinner and female homemaker. I further show how three stressful aspects of family lives—family bereavement, custodial grandparenting, and caregiving—disproportionately befall women, and especially low-income and women of color. As such, these family-related stressors exacerbate race, class, and gender-based disparities in health and well-being. I conclude by highlighting social policies that may help to mitigate against these disparities, and provide resources so that Americans of all backgrounds have an opportunity to grow old with dignity.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics Springer Publishing

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Publisher
Springer Publishing
Copyright
© 2020 Springer Publishing Company
ISSN
0198-8794
eISSN
1944-4036
DOI
10.1891/0198-8794.40.43
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<p>The implications of economic inequality for American families are profound, giving rise to widening race and socioeconomic disparities in key family transitions including marriage, divorce, cohabitation, childrearing, and family bereavement. However, little scholarly attention focuses on how these divergences in family structure shape the health and well-being of older adults, and especially older women. In this chapter, I propose that family relationships are an important although overlooked mechanism linking economic inequality to persistent race, socioeconomic, and gender disparities in late-life well-being. I provide a statistical snapshot of older adults’ families, showing how rates of marriage, divorce, widowhood, and remarriage differ markedly on the basis of gender, socioeconomic status, and race, with these disparities widening against the backdrop of rising economic inequality in the late 20th and early 21th centuries. I then describe how these patterns perpetuate disparities in late-life economic well-being, due in part to the structure of Social Security benefits which advantage those whose family lives conformed to the mid-20th century White middle-class “ideal” of a lifelong marriage between a male breadwinner and female homemaker. I further show how three stressful aspects of family lives—family bereavement, custodial grandparenting, and caregiving—disproportionately befall women, and especially low-income and women of color. As such, these family-related stressors exacerbate race, class, and gender-based disparities in health and well-being. I conclude by highlighting social policies that may help to mitigate against these disparities, and provide resources so that Americans of all backgrounds have an opportunity to grow old with dignity.</p>

Journal

Annual Review of Gerontology & GeriatricsSpringer Publishing

Published: Jul 26, 2020

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