This brief uses the National Health Interview Survey to estimate trends in disability-free life expectancy for men at age 50. The first section calculates trends in disability-free life expectancy for the population as a whole, revealing an increase between 1970 and 2000 of almost three years. The second section estimates the trends in disability-free life expectancy by race and educational attainment, showing that the three-year-increase is attributable primarily to movement up the education ladder, with minimal increases within educational groups. Moreover, major disparities remain between those in the bottom and top quartiles of the population. The third section looks to the future, suggesting that the improvement in health outcomes for the population in general may have slowed or even reversed and that increases in educational attainment may have ceased. The final section concludes that the level and dispersion in disability-free life expectancy that we have today may be with us for a long time and that a vulnerable portion of the population--perhaps those who most need to work longer--might not be able to extend their work lives.
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