Dementia’s Financial Impact Hits African-Americans Harder

A new study found that the median wealth of black Americans with dementia declined 97 percent in the last 10 years of life compared with 42 percent among those with dementia who are not black. The study was conducted by Jennifer Kaufman, an alumnus of the Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, and her co-authors, Professors William Gallo and Marianne Fahs (The Graduate Center, CUNY, and SPH).

Black Americans are twice as likely to develop dementia as other Americans, but at least half of black Americans don’t have the resources to cope with the financial impact of the disease, the authors report.

In Kaufman’s studies on the economics of aging, she was struck by the disparity in wealth at the end of life. “I haven’t seen any other research that really looks at the role of dementia in harming black families’ opportunities to build wealth across the generations,” she says. “What we found is that even when families have built up something to pass on to their children, dementia can easily wipe it out.”

The study, published in the journal Ageing & Society, found that the median wealth of black Americans with dementia declined from $38,205 to $1,200.

The study found that dementia is a predictor of home loss, which plays a significant role in a family’s decline in wealth, especially among black Americans. If black homeowners are forced to sell their home or lose it to foreclosure, it increases the odds six-fold of a family losing all their wealth. “It makes it that much harder for black Americans to build family wealth and close the wealth gap,” says Kaufman.

“Ultimately, adding a long-term care benefit to Medicare is probably the best way to reduce the occurrence of wealth exhaustion,” says Kaufman. Families dealing with the onset of dementia should seek financial counseling or talk to an elder care lawyer.  

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Work By

Jennie Kaufman (Senior Editor) | Profile 1
William T. Gallo (Professor, Health Policy and Management) | Profile 1 | Profile 2
Marianne Fahs (Professor, Health Policy and Management) | Profile 1 | Profile 2