NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

How Do the Better Educated Do It? Socioeconomic Status and the Ability to Cope with Underlying Impairment

David M. Cutler, Mary Beth Landrum, Kate A. Stewart

NBER Working Paper No. 12040
Issued in February 2006
NBER Program(s):   AG   HC

There is a pronounced gradient in disability across socioeconomic groups, with better educated and higher income groups reporting substantially less disability. In this paper, we consider why that is the case, focusing on impairments in basic physical and cognitive aspects of living for the elderly. Our empirical work has two parts. First, we consider how much of this gradient in disability is a result of underlying differences in functioning versus the ability to cope with impairments. We show differences in functioning are the major part of the difference in disability, but both are important. Second, we consider how the better educated elderly cope with disability. Better educated people use substantially more assistive technology than the less educated and are more likely to use paid help. But use of these services is not the primary reason that the better educated are better able to cope. We conclude with thoughts about other potential factors that may explain differential coping.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12040

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