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Comparing Veteran and Non-veteran Racial Disparities in Mid-life Health and Well-being

Abstract

Using National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 data on mid-life physical health, mental health, and self-esteem, I examine inter- and intra-racial disparities in health and well-being among veteran and non-veteran men (N = 2440). After controlling for selectivity into the military via propensity weighting, I find that black veterans have higher self-esteem than white veterans and comparable black non-veterans, but white veterans have similar mid-life self-esteem as their non-veteran counterparts. I find no evidence of disparities in health for depressive symptoms and self-rated health after taking selection into military service into account. The results suggest that aspects of military service may increase blacks’ self-esteem, possibly due to less discrimination and more opportunity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These criterion, however, change with time and necessity.

  2. 2.

    Several models and interactions between variables were tested. If the selection variables remained unbalanced, the treatment model was respecified.

  3. 3.

    Similar results were found when using all the categories of self-rated health with ordered logistic regression and using count models to predict self-esteem and depressive symptoms.

  4. 4.

    Kernel and nearest-neighbor matching were used to ensure that propensity weighting techniques were consistent with matching techniques and both gave similar results.

  5. 5.

    Even though blacks who served were more advantaged than blacks who did not and whites who served were more disadvantaged than whites who did not serve, it is important to note that for both veterans and non-veterans blacks were more likely to be disadvantaged than whites. Veteran whites were still more advantaged than veteran blacks on a number of important factors such as mother’s education, AFQT scores, and living with both biological parents at age 14.

  6. 6.

    The vast majority served during peacetime and similar results were found when excluding the veterans who may have been exposed to the Gulf War.

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Correspondence to Heather M. Rackin.

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Rackin, H.M. Comparing Veteran and Non-veteran Racial Disparities in Mid-life Health and Well-being. Popul Res Policy Rev 36, 331–356 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-016-9419-8

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Keywords

  • Racial disparities in health
  • Racial disparities in well-being
  • Racial disparities in self-esteem
  • Veterans
  • Military service
  • Propensity weighting