Gender, Marital Status, and Living Arrangements

Gender and Age

Similar to the non-Hispanic white elder groups and the other minority ethnic groups, Hispanic/Latino elders include more women than men over the age of 65. Table 1 illustrates the distribution of population for gender, age and Hispanic origin by percentage of the age groups in the total ethnic groups. There is an increased older population of men and women within the Cuban population compared to the other elder groups. There are also more Cuban men in the 55–64 age group compared to Cuban women. There are smaller proportions of older Mexican American men and women in all age categories, with the exception of the Central/South American male category where there were too few to report.

Marital Status

In Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being, the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics chose marital status as one of the 31 indicators of the lives of older adults and their families. Marital status has been found to affect a person’s emotional and economic well-being because of living arrangements and caregiver availability. Over half of the male Hispanic/Latino 65 and older population are married, and about 38% of the women are married. See Table 3.

Data from the Hispanic Epidemiological Studies of the elderly (H-EPESE), a large multistage probability sample of Mexican Americans 65 and older residing in the Southwestern states of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona (Markides, Rudkin, Angel, & Espino, 1997) show that more married native born Mexican American elders live with a spouse alone than do married foreign born elders. Foreign born are more likely to live with others, with someone else in the household as the head. In this data there were more unmarried, native born Mexican American women living alone as the head the household than foreign born Mexican American women.

Living Arrangements

The Census population survey shows Hispanic/Latino elders to be second only to Asian/Pacific Islanders in living with relatives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Historically preferences for living with others has been well documented in the literature for all Hispanic/Latino ethnic groups (Aranda & Miranda, 1997; Sotomayor & Applewhite, 1988; Sanchez-Ayendez, 1988; Cubillos, 1987; Delgado,1982). An ongoing debate in the literature is whether more Hispanic/Latino elders live with family as a result of health or economic necessity or because of culturally bound expectations governed by norms of mutual reciprocity among families (Gratton, 1987) (Angel & Tienda, 1987).

In the Hispanic-(H-HEPESE) study, a sample of 3,046 Mexican American elderly over 65 were assessed on their preferences for living arrangements and comparisons were made between foreign born elders and native born (Angel & Angel, McClellan & Markides, 1996). There were many differences between the native and foreign-born groups in terms of reasons for living with family. More foreign-born elders lived with their adult children because these elders were providing their adult children with financial or child care assistance. However, the primary reason given by the Mexican American elders for living with their children was: “Because my child wants me to live with him/her” and/or “it is best for everyone if parents live with their children.”  Foreign born Mexican American elders had less education, less personal income, and had increased mobility and instrumental activity of daily living problems compared to native born Mexican American elders (Angel, Angel, McClellan, & Markides, 1996).