American Sociological Association

Beyond Net Worth: Racial Differences in Wealth Portfolios and Black–White Health Inequality across the Life Course

A large body of research links wealth and health, but most previous work focuses on net worth. However, the assets and debts that comprise wealth likely relate to health in different and meaningful ways. Furthermore, racial differences in wealth portfolios may contribute to racial health gaps. Using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and mixed effects growth curve models, we examined the associations between various wealth components and multiple health outcomes. We also investigated whether black–white differences in wealth portfolios contributed to racial health inequality. We found that savings, stock ownership, and homeownership consistently improve health, but debt is associated with worse health, even after adjusting for total net worth. We found little evidence that home equity is associated with health. Findings also revealed differential health returns to assets by race. These findings provide new insights into the complex relationship among race, wealth, and health.


Courtney Boen, Lisa Keister, and Brian Aronson





Starting Page


Ending Page