Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 November 2008
The Sociology and Social Policy Research Unit of the Berlin Aging Study focuses on four substantive areas: (1) life course antecedents and generational experiences, (2) later phases of the family life course, (3) action resources and social participation, and (4) economic situations and the provision of care. This paper reports results on the relationship between social and economic inequality and differential ageing, using the BASE multidisciplinary Intake Assessment (N = 360). The socio-economic position of older people is measured along three dimensions: economic resources, social status and prestige, and cultural status. Several ageing outcomes are considered, including functional physical health, cognitive functioning and mental health, overall subjective well-being, social autonomy and dependency. First, we show that old people as a group are neither socially nor economically homogeneous: very old women possess unusually low economic resources; and cohort differences in educational attainment are carried into old age. Second, cognitive functioning and mental health are positively correlated with socio-economic resources, while functional physical health is not. For women, socio-economic resources slightly affect overall subjective well-being, and are linked to the likelihood of living in a nursing home. We speculate that the wide availability of compulsory health insurance reduces social differentials in physical health and that these inequalities may determine who survives into old age.