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Economic Hardship across the Life Course

John Mirowsky and Catherine E. Ross
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 4 (Aug., 1999), pp. 548-569
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657255
Page Count: 22
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Economic Hardship across the Life Course
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Abstract

We test two hypotheses about the relationship between age and reported difficulty paying bills or buying things the family needs, such as food, clothing, medicine, and medical care. The affluence-trajectory hypothesis follows from age-group differences in income, income per capita, and official poverty, suggesting that economic hardship declines in successively older age groups up to late middle age but then rises. The adequacy-gradient hypothesis follows from research suggesting a progressively favorable balance of resources relative to needs in successively older age groups, suggesting that economic hardship declines progressively in successively older age groups. Two U.S. surveys (1990 and 1995) find a progressive decline in economic hardship in successively older age groups consistent with the adequacy-gradient hypothesis. Most age-group differences in economic hardship appear attributable to differences in the presence of children in the home, in resources such as homeownership and medical insurance, and in behaviors such as moderation and thrift.

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