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The Link Between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality

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Working Paper Number SEHSD-WP2019-12/SIPP 288


When in the life course do adults lose their parents, and does this differ across demographic groups? For example, do Blacks lose their parents earlier in life than Whites? Historically, a lack of available data has limited the study of parental mortality in the United States. For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive. When taken in combination with socioeconomic indicators collected in the SIPP, these nationally representative data offer an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate factors related to parental mortality. Existing research suggests linkages between socioeconomic factors and mortality.  In this paper, we use Wave 1 of the 2014 SIPP panel to evaluate whether linkages exist between socioeconomic factors and the timing of parental loss. We begin by exploring parental loss by age, noting that individuals tend to lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers. We then consider the way in which inequities relating to demographic factors such as race and origin, income-to-poverty ratio, and education level manifest themselves in the timing of parental mortality. Additionally, we consider how interrelationships among these factors, such as income disparities within racial groups, relate to parental mortality outcomes. These results illustrate how disparate socioeconomic communities are affected by parental loss and underscore the utility of the SIPP as an analytical tool for studying trends in parental mortality.

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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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