University of Texas, Austin

The overarching mission of CAPS is to galvanize novel research that illuminates how biological, psychosocial, and environmental factors intersect and cascade throughout the life course to generate disparities in health and well-being at older ages. The Center promotes collaborations among scholars and supports pilot projects to address these complex aging and population health issues, and works to grow the number and diversity of researchers who study aging at all career stages.

Research Themes
Life course precursors of advantage and disadvantage at older ages; Family demography; Social engagement, and social isolation; Place, aging, and health.

News Archive and Newsletter
News | News Blast archive

Pilot Projects

  • 2022. Karen Fingerman (Professor, Human Development & Family Sciences, UT Austin). Daily Experiences and Well-being in Late Life: A Longitudinal Examination of Ecologically Valid Assessments of Older Adults’ Daily Experiences.

  • 2022. Stephanie Grasso (Assistant Professor, Speech Language and Hearing Sciences, UT Austin) . Sociodemographic and Neurocognitive Characterization of Mexican-American Bilinguals and Monolinguals Presenting with Typical and Pathological Cognitive Aging.

  • 2022. Aprile Benner (Associate Professor, Human Development & Family Sciences, UT Austin). Structural Racism, Discrimination, and Health across the Life Course .

  • 2022. Lauren Gaydosh, (Assistant Professor, Sociology, UT Austin) . Contextual Despair and Risk Behaviors in Midlife: Extending Innovative Measures to Add Health.

  • 2022. Mark Hayward (Professor, Sociology, UT Austin). The Dynamics of Race Differences in Life Course Pathways Associated with the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.

  • 2022. Sae Han (Assistant Professor, Human Development & Family Sciences, UT Austin). Disability of a Family Member, Caregiving Behavior, and Caregiver Health Outcomes in Middle and Late Adulthood.

  • 2021. Abigail Weitzman. Assessing the Feasibility of Panel Data Collection Among Adult Refugees in Costa Rica.

    The proposed project aims to collect pilot longitudinal data among refugees and other migrants in need of protection (MNP) who have relocated to Costa Rica to evade an imminent threat to their survival. To do so, the project will first conduct a baseline phone survey with MNP from various different Latin American countries who are ages 18 to 95 years and currently residing in Costa Rica. Following, it will then send these same MNP a series of standardized follow-up surveys to complete online either daily, weekly, or monthly. Analyses of the resultant data will provide new information about how the retention of MNP in panel surveys varies as a function of trauma history, age, and other personal characteristics. In addition, they will reveal: (1) how much variation exists in MNPs’ health, wellbeing, and hardship on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis; (2) how trauma histories and former ecological contexts (e.g. country of origin) sort refugees and other MNP onto different health trajectories; and (3) how trauma, age, country of origin, family structure, and attributes of personal networks predict MNP health and hardship on average. The findings promise to advance research and theory on trauma, aging, and international displacement by generating pilot data for an R01 project, adapting methods to track and describe the social and health circumstances of internationally displaced populations, and examining relationships between pre- and post-flight experiences, family dynamics, social incorporation, and MNP health and wellbeing across the adult life course.



  • 2021. Debra Umberson. How Spouses Influence Each Other’s Health in Same- and Different-Sex Marriages: A Dyadic and Longitudinal Assessment from Mid to Later Life.

    Decades of population research show that married Americans are in better health and live longer than their unmarried peers and that there are gender differences in how spouses influence each other’s health. Until recently, however, this research was entirely based on marriages between women and men. In 2015, with NIA support (R21 AG0445850), we collected dyadic data to conduct the first in-depth analysis of marital processes and health comparing legally married midlife spouses in same-sex and different-sex marriages. Findings have highlighted differences in health-related marital dynamics for women and men in same and different-sex unions. These dynamics likely impact both spouses’ long-term health, but due to a lack of longitudinal and dyadic data, scientists know little about how they do so. The major aim of this pilot project is to design and launch collection of Wave 2 data to construct a longitudinal, dyadic data set that will allow us to examine how same-sex partners influence each other’s health behaviors and mental and physical health over time, and in comparison to different-sex partners.

  • 2021. Diane Coffey. Gender Disparities in Adult Mortality and Morbidity in India: Understanding Variation and Investigating Mechanisms.

    A large body of research documents health disparities between boys and girls in India.  Gender discrimination leads to skewed sex ratios at birth, and to male-female gaps in child mortality and height that are markedly different from the rest of the world.  Such research highlights the rich complexity of how biology and society interact to produce population-level child health outcomes.  For example, in most countries, girls are more likely to survive childhood and less likely to be stunted than boys (Sawyer, 2012).  Yet, in India, many child health outcomes are similar across sexes, or worse for girls.

    Less research has documented, contextualized, and investigated disparities in morbidity and mortality between adult men and women.  Comparisons of gender differences in life expectancy suggest that the female life expectancy advantage that exists in almost every country is muted in India.  This proposal seeks to understand how and why women in India experience smaller, and sometimes no survival advantages compared to men.  By examining regional variation in gender discrimination, as well as regional variation in gender health gaps, we seek to build a more comprehensive model of disparities in the aging process in India, where one-sixth of people live.


    This project has three aims: 1) to identify gaps in the literature about gender disparities in health in India and compare how these gaps match with NIA funding priorities; 20 to identify how data on adult health and morbidity can be used to fill gaps in the literature; 3) to prepare preliminary analyses to be used in an NIA proposal and prepare a proposal.





  • 2021. Lauren Gaydosh. Biological Aging Among Older Sexual and Gender Minority Adults in the US South.

    Older sexual minorities constitute approximately 3 million Americans, a number expected to double by 2030. Moreover, 35% of SGM adults in the US reside in the South, yet many studies focus on SGM samples in coastal metropolitan cities. Sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations experience significantly worse morbidity, mental health, physical disability, and unmet healthcare needs compared with their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. With smaller kin networks, SGM are also more likely to experience social isolation. These health and social disparities have been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Vanderbilt University Social Networks, Aging, and Policy Study (VUSNAPS) investigates the health and aging of older SGM residing in four states in the US South (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee). This pilot project will collect innovative in-home self-collected blood samples for measurement of biomarkers of aging in a subsample (n=150) of the VUSNAPS cohort. We aim to assess the feasibility of this self-collection technology both in terms of acceptability in our study population and quality of the resulting biomarker measurements. We will construct biomarker-based measures of biological aging and examine variation by sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, we will investigate the relationship between social isolation and biological age, testing state-level variation. This project will contribute to the fields of biodemography, public health, minority health disparities, and gerontology, all of which will benefit from expanding access to biomarker data among a high-need and understudied population. The collection of biomarkers of aging among this population will be a major advancement in the measurement and study of health inequalities across gender identity and sexual orientation, especially in older age. The study will enable preliminary investigation into the disproportionate burden and lasting implications of the pandemic on health and aging in this vulnerable population.



  • 2021. Robert Crosnoe. Health Disparities among Aging Parents of Adult Children with Serious Conditions.

    This project will involve preliminary analyses and pilot data collection for a R01 proposal to NIA. The parent project—which will go through the NIH review cycle twice over the next year—is a large mixed-methods study investigating the physical and mental health toll on aging parents of children with serious conditions who have reached adulthood and how this toll can be buffered by resources in the family ecology related to marriage/partnership and by resources in the community related to the availability of health and human services. The pilot project’s goals are to conduct preliminary statistical modeling of a nationally representative data set that incorporates community-level measures from outside sources (e.g., Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Charitable Statistics), demonstrates feasibility, confirms power, and produces potential results supporting the proposed plan of quantitative analyses; to conduct a small number of pilot semi-structured interviews with local parents that allow refinement and expansion of the proposed qualitative sampling and data collection procedures and experimentation with the proposed textual and grounded theory analytical techniques; and to address, when possible, any suggestions and critiques that arise during the NIH review process related to data and analyses.

  • 2020. Chandra Muller. Education and Financial Resilience During Economic Recession for Healthy Aging: Record Linkage of High School Education Longitudinal Studies to Consumer Credit Data.

  • 2020. Elizabeth Munoz. Neighborhood Characteristics Throughout Life and Midlife Cognitive Functioning.

    Aim 1: To determine whether residential neighborhoods can be successfully coded for neighborhood resources and deprivation from childhood to midlife using historical data indicative of neighborhood context.

    In accordance with Aim 1, we were able to successfully code for early childhood neighborhood deprivation. In consultation with a Geographic Information Systems expert, coded age 5, 10, and 15 addresses for the Effects of Stress on Cognitive Aging, Physiology and Emotion study (ESCAPE) database.

    In consultation with Dr. Gabriel Amaro, Interdisciplinary Statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau, we geocoded and linked addresses with harmonized longitudinal Census tract boundaries. Through this process, we discovered that we were only able to link participant data who had age-5 addresses from 1970 or later. Census tracts have been used since about the 1920s but only a small number of areas in the U.S. were tabulated by tracts. It was not until 1940 that tracts were officially adopted as a geographic entity by the Census Bureau and by 1970, tracts started be used in more widespread fashion. Thus, our variables of interest were only available from the 1970 Census, forward. In all, we were able to link data to 56% of the ESCAPE sample, and thus to participants who were 45 years or younger at the time of assessment. We computed an age-five neighborhood deprivation score that included the following variables: Median household income (reversed scored), percent H.S. or less, percent owner occupied units (reversed scores), % poverty rate, % unemployment rate, median contract rent (reversed scored), and percent female headed households. Our results showed that although early neighborhood deprivation was correlated with cognitive performance, this effect was not after accounting for self-reported recollections of early neighborhood environments.

    Age five addresses have currently been coded for the Colorado Adoption/Twin Study of Lifespan behavior and cognitive aging (CATSLIFE). This is a younger sample between the ages of 28 and 48 and because of the dates of data collection, we were able to successfully geocode age-5 addresses for 1,236 participants and computed a composite deprivation score for age 5. Our next step will be to analyze associations with cognitive function to evaluate if results are consistent with results obtained from ESCAPE.

  • 2020. Elliot Tucker-Drob. Faculty Research Associate — Ph.D., University of Virginia.

  • 2020. Jennifer Glass. Trajectories of Mothers’ Breadwinning Responsibilities Over the Life Course.

    Our goals were to find, clean, and analyze the best available data on mothers’ financial provisioning in U.S. households to answer two questions:

    (1) What is the probability that mothers today will find themselves the primary economic support for their children, and for how long a duration on average until their first child turns 18?

    (2) where and why is mother’s role in financial provisioning for children growing so remarkably ?


    Using longitudinal SIPP panels beginning in 2014, we first created multi-state lifetable estimates of mothers’ duration as primary earner, as well single-decrement lifetable estimates of their chance of ever being the primary earner over the first 18 years of motherhood. Using a conservative threshold of 60% or more of household earnings to determine primary earning status, around 70% of American mothers can reasonably expect to be their household’s primary financial support at some point during their first 18 years of motherhood. Mothers average 4.19 years as their families’ primary earner in the 18 years following first birth. Mothers with some college but no degree spent the most years as primary-earners, about 5.09 years on average, as did mothers with nonmarital first births, about 5.69 years

    To answer the second question , we are currently using the 1996 and 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation data to identify changes over time in the prevalence of precipitating events [a separation from a partner or other household earner, an increase in their own earnings, or a decrease in the earnings of a partner or household earner] and determine whether any changes in the effects of these events have occurred since the mid-1990s. We then disaggregate these findings by mothers’ educational attainment and race, estimating variation among mothers in the rate of transition into primary-earner status and whether the contribution of each precipitating event varies by race and class. So far, we have found that separation and divorce account for none of the growth in mothers’ financial provisioning, while the combination of ‘his earnings decline and her earnings increase’ in the same year is much more likely to result in her assuming financial provisioning than in the past. We also note that while Black mothers have seen no growth in financial provisioning (over 80% risk in both time periods), White, Hispanic, and Asian mothers have all seen risk grow over time.

  • 2020. Marika Cabral. Sources of Variation in Private Insurance Coverage Among Medicare Beneficiaries: Decomposing Place-Based and Person-Based Factors.

    During the pilot period, my collaborators and I have conducted the core analysis for the paper.  We have begun presenting the project at conferences and discussing it with colleagues.  We are currently finishing up a first draft of the paper for this project, and we anticipate being able to circulate the paper in late Spring 2021 for wider feedback before submitting to a journal.  In case it is helpful, below is a preliminary abstract for the paper:
    Abstract: In recent years the share of Medicare enrollees obtaining insurance through private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans has increased by 2-3 percentage points per year, ensuring that elderly and disabled beneficiaries will continue to obtain Medicare insurance both through direct government provision and indirectly through private plans for the foreseeable future. But geographic uptake of MA remains highly variable, with essentially no enrollment in some states and well over half in others. In this paper we exploit the MA enrollment decisions of those moving from one MA market (county) to another between the years 2007 to 2017.  This technique decomposes enrollment decisions into a component due to beneficiary attributes and preferences and a component due to market features.  We find that geographic variation in beneficiary preferences and attributes accounts for more than half (~60%) of variation in MA enrollment decisions. This role of market features is somewhat more important in areas with low MA enrollment and in county pairs where the markets are most dissimilar. We then examine predictors of the market component of MA enrollment decisions. Holding beneficiary preferences fixed, MA enrollment is higher in areas with higher MA reimbursements and greater MA advertising and lower in areas with greater physician and hospital market power.
    Other outcomes from the project and plans for the future
    This pilot project is part of a larger and ongoing research agenda of mine on factors that influence health care decisions and health care consumption among elderly and disabled individuals covered by Medicare.  In early stage work, I am exploring the feasibility of using a similar research design to investigate the determinants of health system choice among other groups with choice between different public insurance options.

Center Administrator/Media Contact: Stacy Brodie