Socioeconomic Status, Race-Ethnicity, and the Health of Retirement-Age Women: The Paradox of Social Relationships

Doctoral Dissertation


Often, women who experience socioeconomic disadvantage are particularly deeply immersed within their social networks, and minority women have been shown to be most involved in social networks. While social engagement is expected to be positively associated with health, this research investigates how this relationship may be altered across socioeconomic and racial-ethnic group. The findings suggest negative health consequences flowing from the cumulative nature of stress associated with disadvantaged work and family roles. Provision of support may contribute to women becoming stressed and overburdened, and compound health risk already present due to economic hardship. A paradox of social relationships seems to exist, where social involvement is beneficial for some, but increases illness for others. I investigate whether lower levels of income and minority status moderates the influence of social capital (measured as social networks, integration, and support) on depression, mobility limitations, and number of health conditions on a sample of American women age 55-65 in the Health and Retirement Study. I find a paradoxical relationship, where certain types of social relations do provide health benefits for older women, but for some women relationships with family and friends are detrimental to health. This research on a nationally representative sample of retirement-age women challenges existing notions of social capital and health.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04162004-135804

Author Jessica Ziembroski
Advisor Felicia LeClere
Contributor Daniel Myers, Committee Member
Contributor Richard Williams, Committee Member
Contributor Felicia LeClere, Committee Chair
Contributor Cindy Bergeman, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2003-10-27

Submission Date 2004-04-16
  • United States of America

  • Social Capital

  • Aging

  • Socioeconomic Status

  • Depression

  • Race

  • Social Support

  • Women’s Health

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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