September 24, 2023

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March 28, 2023 Older American workers of color at a loss

As workers age, poor health or disabling physical conditions may prevent them from holding a job. Sometimes people are forced to leave work if things get really bad, whether they are ready to retire or not.

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But race also adds to the plight, as workers of color are already in poorer health and have more vulnerable employment conditions than white workers. A new study compares what it’s like to be an older Black, Hispanic or Asian man trying to find work in two countries with similar cultures: the United States and England.

The United States doesn’t come out on top.

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The building blocks for this research are basic comparisons of the health and employment rates of white and minority workers in each country. In both cases, the difference between the races is largest in the United States.

Black people aged 50 to 70 in both England and the United States are much less healthy than whites their age. But the researchers found that health inequalities are larger here than in England, where the National Health Service provides universal healthcare. Differences between the two countries persisted in an analysis of the use of individuals in a survey to self-report their health and use of medical diagnoses such as diabetes and heart disease.

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The racial gap in employment is also large in the United States. The employment rate for older American men of color is 10 percentage points lower than for white men and 5 percentage points lower for older women of color. In England, the researchers said, the differences are “modest” taking into account the fact that whites and minorities in England have different health and education levels than older workers here.

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The disadvantages of being an older worker of color are amplified if they suddenly experience a new medical condition or injury. But when it does, the researchers concluded, “the [negative] The effect of the health shock on employment is larger for non-whites than for whites and larger in the US than in England.

Comparing women of color in the two countries shows this dramatically. Researchers found that a sudden decline in health is responsible for a 19 percent decline in employment for older women of color in the United States, compared to 13 percent for white women. This negative impact on the employment of women of color in this country is three times larger than in England.

There are many possible reasons why these differences exist. First, the pool of minorities in the United States and England is quite different, with a large proportion of American minorities being black or Hispanic and a large proportion of English minorities being South Asian.

Another reason that poor health takes a greater toll on minority workers is because American jobs are generally more physically demanding than those in England, the researchers found.

She added that understanding how deteriorating health affects employment is essential to designing policies that level the playing field for older workers of color so they can work longer hours.

To read the study, authored by Richard Blundell, Jack Britton, Monica Costa Dias, Eric French and Weijian Xue, see “Dynamic Effects of Health on Employment of Older Workers: Effects by Gender, Country and Ethnicity”.

The research reported here was derived in whole or in part from research activities conducted pursuant to a grant from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinion or policy of the SSA, any agency of the federal government, or Boston College. Neither the United States Government nor any of its agencies, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility, for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation or endorsement by the United States Government or any of its agencies.

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