Women’s Work-Family Life Course Type and Changes in Health and Well-Being in Later Life

Emily Grundy, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex
Thijs van den Broek, London School of Economics and Political Science

Research indicates that women’s work and family histories are associated with well-being in later life. Prior work tends to consider women in later mid-life, rather than at older ages, and examine outcomes measured at one point in time. However, the salience of socio-economic and socio-demographic indicators may change as people age. For example, the status and stimulation accruing from a professional career may become less relevant to well-being many years post retirement whereas support and social interaction with family and community may become more important. In the current study we examine how work/family orientation is associated with changes in the health and well-being of US women over a five year follow-up. We use six waves of data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), collected 2011-2016 from a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older (5,572 observations nested in 1,342 women). Using latent class analysis, we identified four life course types: (1) “career and family”, (2) “family oriented”, (3) “career oriented”, and (4) “precarious”. Multinomial logistic regression a indicated that Non-Hispanic black women were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have “career and family” or “family oriented” life course types, and more likely to have a “precarious” life course type. Poor financial circumstances and poor health when growing up were associated with a lower likelihood of having a “career and family” life course and a higher likelihood of a “precarious life course”. Linear growth curve models showed that women in the “career and family” type consistently had the highest self-rated health and wellbeing scores, and that the “precarious” group had the lowest scores. The self-rated health model showed some convergence over time between the “career and family” and the “precarious” groups.

Presented in Session 55: Lifecourse Determinants of Caring and Wellbeing in Later Life