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

64 Pages Posted: 4 May 2006 Last revised: 3 Aug 2010

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School

Kate Stewart

Harvard Medical School - Department of Health Care Policy

Date Written: February 2006

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Landrum, Mary Beth and Stewart, Kate, How Do the Better Educated Do it? Socioeconomic Status and the Ability to Cope with Underlying Impairment (February 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12040. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=883089

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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617-868-3900 (Phone)
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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Department of Health Care Policy
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Kate Stewart

Harvard Medical School - Department of Health Care Policy ( email )

25 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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