MPIDR Working Paper
Intersectionality and opportunity-weighted cumulative (dis)advantage
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-040, 57 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (September 2023)
Grounded in theories of intersectionality and cumulative (dis)advantage, we develop complementary formalizations of (dis)advantage: one that captures the traditional practice of studying Cumulative (Dis)Advantage (CDA) that reflects inequalities in outcomes and Opportunity-Weighted CDA that additionally accounts for inequalities in opportunities. We study the properties of these (dis)advantages and show that traditional cumulative disadvantage and advantage are mutually exclusive; this is not true of opportunity-weighted CDA. Using these formalizations, we analyze the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2018) to assess how total life expectancy at age 50 is associated with the accumulation of racial/ethnic, nativity, gender, early-life, and educational (dis)advantages. We find that the benefits and penalties of one (dis)advantage depend on positionality on the other axes of inequality. Whites ubiquitously experience Cumulative Advantage: they benefit more from having higher education than Blacks and Latinx. However, when accounting for racial/ethnic inequities in educational attainment, results predominantly show Opportunity-Weighted Cumulative Disadvantage for Blacks and Latinx. Finally, we present a specification curve analysis that includes early-life adversity. Our contributions include the formalization (a mathematical grounding) of two CDA approaches – traditional and one that incorporates inequities in opportunities – and empirical results that comprehensively document the intersecting axes of stratification that perpetuate health inequities.
Keywords: USA, life expectancy, social demography, social stratification