Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





June E. O'Neill


Demographic Characteristics of the Elderly; Economic Well-Being of the Elderly; Elderly Inequality; Elderly Poverty; Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF)


The U.S. older population has grown more diverse than their previous generations. There is a solid increase in educational attainment of the elderly, especially among women. In addition, a significant drop in marriage rates coincident with the rise in divorce rates occurred. Both shares of the immigrants and of the minority are increasing. Work participation rates for older people between 1950s and 1970s were high, then gradually declined to the lower level in the mid-1980s, but rebounded in recent decades. Some of the elderly even continue working full-time after reaching at their full retirement age. This dissertation uses decennial Censuses and Current Population Surveys to analyze basic demographic characteristics of the elderly and employs the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) data to investigate the changes in income and net worth for different age group from 1989 to 2013. The increase of net worth happened for almost every age group and reaching at high point of median net worth in 2004 or in 2007. After financial collapsed around 2008 and the Great Recession followed, all age groups suffered the reduction of net worth significantly. The latest data of the SCF in 2013 shows relatively flattened decline of net worth for most groups except the age of 65-74 displaying an upward gain. In general, the elderly rebounded faster than the nonelderly after recession. Even though the SCF data show clear gains of wealth among the middle and the top group, the very high and very low wealth groups are always going together and the diffusion of the large middle group is not trivial. As to the degree of wealth inequality, it is lower among the elderly than among the nonelderly.