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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Mar;68(2):278-89. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbs160. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Ethnicity as a determining factor for instrumental support in mid and later life in England and Wales.

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  • 1Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ. r.m.willis@soton.ac.uk



Minority ethnic groups are often assumed to exchange higher levels of informal support than the majority population, despite evidence that controlling for socioeconomic and health inequalities eliminates differences. Using a unique data set from England and Wales, we examined instrumental support across ethnic groups in mid and later life.


Employing data from the Home Office Citizenship Survey 2005 (N = 14,081), we investigated ethnic group differences in instrumental support among people aged 55 and older in England and Wales (n = 4,710). Multiple logistic regression was used to investigate the determinants of support given and received, guided by the Andersen-Newman behavioral model.


Compared with the White British group, the Indian group reported significantly higher odds (odds ratio [OR] = 2.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0-4.7) of receiving instrumental support from household members but significantly lower odds of giving support to relatives outside the household (OR = 0.7, 95% CI 0.5-0.9). Three other ethnic groups (Pakistani and Bangladeshi, Mixed, Other) reported significantly lower odds in unadjusted findings, but when adjusted, ethnic group differences were no longer significant.


Our analyses suggest few ethnic group differences in instrumental support once need and enabling factors were taken into account. Such findings are contrary to the belief that minority groups exchange more informal support and therefore have less need for formal services. The Andersen-Newman model is useful for guiding the analysis of support both given and received.

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