"Health disparities accounted for relatively little of the race/ethnicity gaps in income, which appeared to be associated much more strongly with disparities in education," says study author John Bound, Ph.D., of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.
Health conditions that limit or prevent people from working occur more frequently among all workers as they grow older, as might be expected. But Bound says that limitations caused by poor health have a greater impact on minorities.
"The prevalence is higher for blacks and Native Americans than for whites," he says, "and it rises with age more steeply for them than for whites."
The impact of these disparities increases, as well, Bound says. Health disparities account for only 3 percent to 9 percent of the employment gap between black and white men aged 25 to 34, but between 17 and 41 percent of the gap between men 55 to 64. A similar pattern exists for Native American men and for black and Native American women.
Bound and his colleagues based their findings on a nationally representative sample population drawn from the 1990 U.S. Census. They documented strong associations between health and labor market outcomes -- like employment and earnings --among black, Native American and white respondents to the Census Bureau's long form. The researchers validated this source by comparing their results to other federal studies of health status, employment and income.
In general, people who reported having a health problem that limited their ability to work were less likely to be working than those without such limitation and who had s
Contact: John Bound, Ph.D.
Center for the Advancement of Health