Race and Place: Exploring the Intersection of Inequity and Volunteerism Among Older Black and White Adults

Ernest Gonzales, Huei Wern Shen, Yi Wang, Linda Sprague Martinez, Julie Norstrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the historical impact of racial segregation and ongoing health and economic inequities between older Black and White adults is well documented, little is known about the relationships among race, individual- and neighborhood-resources, and formal volunteering in later life. This study explores this intersection. Individual-level data from 268 respondents aged 55+ were collected in the St. Louis metropolitan area through paper-based mail surveys. Objective neighborhood data were obtained at the zip code level from secondary sources and matched with respondents. Using exploratory factor analysis, we constructed a 14-item environmental scale with 3 neighborhood dimensions (economic, social, and built environment). Older Black adults had lower levels of education; had fewer financial assets; lived in neighborhoods with less economic resources and lower built environment scores; and fewer formally volunteered when compared to older White adults. Individual resources (financial assets, health) and neighborhood resources (social and built environment) were positively associated with formal volunteering among older Black adults. Only individual resources (age, marital status, financial assets, health) were associated with formal volunteering among older White adults. A coherent set of policies that bolsters individual and environmental capacities may increase the rate of volunteerism among older black adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Gerontological Social Work
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016


  • Environmental capacity
  • formal volunteering
  • inclusion
  • inequity
  • neighborhoods
  • productive aging
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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