Ageing and Society

Articles

Do adults adjust their socio-economic status identity in later life

JENNIFER C. CORNMANa1 c1, NOREEN GOLDMANa2, AMY LOVE COLLINS, DANA A. GLEIa3, BAAI-SHYUN HURNGa4 and MAXINE WEINSTEINa3

a1 Jennifer C. Cornman Consulting, Granville, OH, USA.

a2 Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.

a3 Center for Population and Health, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA.

a4 Bureau of Health Promotion, Department of Health, Taichung, Taiwan.

ABSTRACT

Previous research shows that socio-economic status (SES) identity, also referred to as perceived or subjective social status, is shaped by objective measures of status, socio-cultural influences and psychological attributes and predicts current and future wellbeing. Prior studies, however, have not examined whether older adults reassess their SES identity over time. In this study, we use two assessments of subjective social status measured six years apart in a sample of older Taiwanese adults to: (a) determine the degree to which respondents adjust their perceptions of social rank; and (b) identify the characteristics of individuals who are most likely to revise their assessments. We find that many older Taiwanese adults reassess their SES identity, but most respondents show small to moderate levels of change. Females, more highly educated respondents, and those who have a positive economic outlook tend to revise their subjective social status upward relative to their respective counterparts; those who become widowed during the period adjust their rankings downward compared with those who do not become widowed. These findings suggest that SES identity may be dynamic, highlighting the importance of collecting information on SES identity at multiple points in the lifecourse.

(Accepted April 18 2011)

(Online publication June 02 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Jennifer C. Cornman, 113 Chapin Pl, Granville, OH 43023, USA. E-mail: jencornman@gmail.com