Aging in Society: Selected Reviews of Recent Research

By Matilda White Riley; Beth B. Hess et al. | Go to book overview

7
Minority Aging1

Kyriakos S. Markides University of Texas

The area of ethnic minority aging is one of the most underdeveloped in social gerontology. Only recently have researchers probed beyond cross-group comparisons of sociodemographic variables such as income, education, sex, or life expectancy to explore the crucial questions of whether and how ethnicity and minority status affect the process of aging in the United States. Much of this research has concentrated on aging among blacks and more recently Hispanics (mainly Mexican Americans), with other ethnic groups receiving less attention. To date, this research has largely failed to establish the knowledge base and theoretical sophistication necessary for generating testable hypotheses. As Bengtson ( 1979: 14) notes: "Although we may be convinced -- indeed take it as a basic premise -- that ethnicity is an important dimension in aging . . . we who are converted have not been particularly convincing to our colleagues, or to policymakers . . . possibly because (we) too often focus on ethnicity per se, rather than ethnic strata within the context of other social stratification dimensions. "Careful examination of the literature discloses that many conclusions regarding the existence of ethnic or cultural differences are not based on scientific evidence because many studies either lack appropriate data or perform inappropriate data analyses for establishing the existence of ethnic differences.

This review focuses principally on America's two largest ethnic-minority groups-blacks and Hispanics. Most of the limited knowledge in the area is about these two groups. While the broader concept of ethnicity is not ignored, special emphasis is given to how ethnic minority status affects the process of

____________________
1
In addition to John Santos, the author is grateful to Dianne Fairbank for her critical reading of an earlier version of this paper.

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