The Hidden Role of Racial Wealth Disparities in Older Adults’ Vulnerability to COVID-19

TitleThe Hidden Role of Racial Wealth Disparities in Older Adults’ Vulnerability to COVID-19
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationForthcoming
AuthorsWinecoff, R, Ayyagari, P, McInerney, M, Simon, KI, M Bundorf, K
JournalResearch Square
ISBN Number2693-5015
KeywordsCOVID-19, Racial wealth disparities

Background: To examine racial and ethnic differences in wealth and other economic, exposure and baseline health-related risks of COVID-19 among older adults in the U.S. Methods: Using rich data on wealth and long-term care use among older Americans unique to the 2016 Health and Retirement Study, we quantify differences in COVID-19 vulnerability among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic respondents aged 50+. We measure wealth, other economic (insurance, income); exposure (long-term care, employment, telework, household size); and health (chronic conditions, smoking) risk stratified by age (50-64, 65+). Results: Blacks and Hispanics face dramatically greater financial risk that potentially increases exposure to COVID-19, relative to whites; Blacks and Hispanics are four to five times more likely to have no financial wealth. Blacks are also more likely than whites to use long-term care. Blacks and Hispanics also are less likely to have health insurance and face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 because they are less likely to telework, and Hispanic older adults reside in larger households. Black and Hispanic older adults are also more likely to have a chronic condition associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes. Conclusions: Our results suggest that wealth differences may play a substantial role in contributing to the very large racial and ethnic disparities in the health burden of COVID-19. Racial disparities in long-term care, where COVID-19 risks are higher, contribute to make older Black Americans even more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Citation Key11479