Understanding the Increased Financial Hardship Experienced by Older Adults with Disabilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic

WP#2022-9

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to analyze why older adults with disabilities experienced greater financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is hypothesized that increased household spending during the pandemic due to increased disability-related costs, and not job loss, mediated the relationship between disability and financial insecurity.  The paper analyzes data for adults ages 51 and older from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) 2020 survey, which was carried out from March 2020 to May 2021 (N=13,083).

The paper found that:

  • Adults with disabilities were significantly more likely to experience financial hardships compared to those without disabilities, net sociodemographic and health controls.
  • The report of increased household spending during the pandemic significantly mediated the relationship between disability and financial hardship. Job-loss and income loss had no statistically significant indirect effect.

 
The policy implications of the findings are:

  • More research is needed to understand the changes in the costs of disability-related goods and services during the pandemic and their impact on people with disabilities.
  • Such research can provide policymakers with key information on potential items to subsidize, compensate for, or provide in future disaster events in order to protect the financial security of people with disabilities.

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