Methods: We analyze nationally representative data for adults ages 51 and older from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) 2020 survey carried out from March 2020 to May 2021. Multiple regression is used to examine the relationship between disability and the report of financial insecurity. Formal mediation analysis is applied to examine the theorized pathways.
Results: Among a sample of 11,127 respondents age and older, 35% reported three or more functional limitations. Adults with disabilities were significantly more likely to experience financial hardships. Increased household spending partially mediated the relationship between disability and financial hardship, while job-loss and income loss had no statistically significant indirect effect.
Conclusions: People with disabilities experienced elevated risk of financial hardship during the COVID 19 pandemic compared to their peers without disabilities. Our research indicates increased household spending among respondents with disabilities helps to explain this disparity. More research is needed to understand the growing costs of disability-related goods and services during the pandemic, the potential impact of inflationary pressures on these items, and how these costs impact the financial well-being of older adults with disabilities.