Cumulative advantage, cumulative disadvantage, and inequality among elderly people

Stephen Crystal, Dennis Shea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Scopus citations


It is often asserted that economic inequality narrows after age 65 when benefit programs replace labor markets as principal income sources. However, analysis of recent Census data suggests inequality is greatest among elderly people. The worst off one-fifth of the elderly (disproportionately unmarried women, minorities, and the physically impaired) receives 5.5% of the elderly's total resources, whereas the best off one-fifth receives 46%. Equalizing effects of Social Security are more than outweighed by private pensions, asset income, and other sources. Findings suggest a process of cumulative economic advantage and disadvantage throughout the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-443
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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