Gender differences in the life course origins of adult functioning and mortality


Gender differences in the life course origins of adult functioning and mortality

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dc.contributor.advisor Hayward, Mark D.
dc.creator Montez, Jennifer Karas 2011-09-19T15:58:14Z 2011-09-19T15:58:14Z 2011-08 2011-09-19 August 2011
dc.description.abstract A high degree of physical functioning is necessary for independently performing the numerous routine and valued tasks of daily life. Poor functioning not only hinders independent living, it can lower the quality of life, impede full social participation, and elevate the risk of death. However, not all adults are at equal risk of poor functioning: women experience worse functioning and live a greater number of years functionally impaired compared with men. Studies of this gap have focused on inequities in adult circumstances, such as socioeconomic status, but have generally fallen short of fully accounting for it. Recasting this research within a life-course, epidemiological framework points to the potential role of early-life circumstances. Early-life circumstances may impart a biological imprint, and they may also launch long-term trajectories of social circumstances, that could differentially shape functioning for men and women. Thus, this dissertation examines the life course origins of the gender gap in functioning and active life expectancy among older U.S. adults using two nationally-representative datasets: the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States and the Health and Retirement Study. In sum, the findings reveal that: (a) a host of early-life circumstances, such as parents’ education levels, leave an indelible stamp on functional ability and active life expectancy for women and men, irrespective of adult circumstances, (b) while some early-life adversities, such as extreme poverty, were marginally more consequential for women’s than men’s functioning, they appear to be primarily more consequential for precipitating metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity rather than directly impacting functioning, (c) explanations of the gap must incorporate endogenous biological differences between men and women; explanations that focus exclusively on socially-structured inequities are insufficient, and (d) exposures to socioeconomic resources accumulate across the life course to shape functioning differently for men than women; particularly between white men, who enjoy better functioning with higher educational attainment irrespective of early-life socioeconomic exposures, and white women whose functioning gains plateau if they experienced early-life socioeconomic adversities. Overall, the results underscore the importance of a life course perspective in explicating gender disparities in functioning, longevity, and active life expectancy.
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject Life course
dc.subject Health
dc.subject Functioning
dc.subject Mortality
dc.subject Active life expectancy
dc.subject Early-life origins
dc.subject Gender
dc.subject Socioeconomic status
dc.subject Education
dc.title Gender differences in the life course origins of adult functioning and mortality 2011-09-19T15:58:23Z
dc.identifier.slug 2152/ETD-UT-2011-08-3862
dc.contributor.committeeMember Hummer, Robert A.
dc.contributor.committeeMember Umberson, Debra J.
dc.contributor.committeeMember Pudrovska, Tetyana
dc.contributor.committeeMember Osborne, Cynthia
dc.description.department Sociology
dc.type.genre thesis
dc.type.material text Sociology Sociology University of Texas at Austin Doctoral Doctor of Philosophy

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