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  • Writer's pictureSteven Lee

Acceptance to AFS '19!!!

Today, I received notice that my paper titled, "Financial Elder Abuse: A (Dis)Confirmatory Analysis" has been accepted for presentation at the 2019 Academy of Financial Services conference, held in Minneapolis this year. Each year, this conference overlaps and is held quasi-jointly with the Financial Planning Association annual conference. This year, AFS is October 15 and 16 while FPA is October 16-18.

My paper quantitatively analyzes the qualitative findings of the MetLife Mature Market Institute's studies on elder abuse from 2009 and 2011. I use the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) from the same years. Two notable outcomes from my investigation are:

1) Not all the qualitative findings hold up to quantitative scrutiny--at least within the NIBRS from 2009 and 2011; and

2) For 2009 and 2011, there were no observations where an elder was financially abused by a family member within the elder's home where the primary offense was theft/fraud or a similar offense.

A couple of notes: First, the NIBRS data are unique in that there are different segments, and each segment affords more information on a particular aspect of the crime (the offense, the perpetrator, the victim, etc.). My research used the offense segment. Second, the offense segment is divided into several different offenses per incident. For instance, suppose a person breaks into a store after hours while the owners are still on the premises. The perpetrator shoots and kills one of the owners, kidnaps the other, and steals the petty cash out of the register. There would be four different offenses listed in different columns within the offense-segment of the NIBRS data set: breaking/entering; murder; kidnapping; and theft. My research focused on the primary or first offense listed within teach column.

The limitations for my study include the fact that, until 2021, the NIBRS data are not nationally representative. Law enforcement agencies on the state and local levels may voluntarily comply with and report crimes through the NIBRS. Second, I only consider two years. It is entirely possible that other years will yield drastically different results. Third, the results may change when I include any (not just primary) theft/fraud-related crime within the offense segment of the data. Also, there is no "financial elder abuse" offense. Instead, I combined all white-collar crimes such as theft of personal property, embezzlement, wire fraud, ATM fraud, etc. into a single category that constitutes financial exploitation. I then filtered-out victims by age, including only elders (those 60 and over) in my analysis. Finally, I ran logistic regression analysis, once for trusted professionals (I used the location of an office building, bank or savings and loan, and restaurant for the financial advisor perpetrator, and the second (attempted) were the perpetrator was a family member and the location was the elder's home.

The base logistic regression model:

FIN-EXPLOIT = b0 + b1VAGE + b2VSEX + b3VRACE + b4OAGE + b5OSEX + b6ORACE + e

Where FIN-EXPLOIT, the dependent variable, is whether the crime that occurred under the above parameters was financial exploitation. The V-variables were victim-related (victim age, victim sex, etc.) and O-variables are offender related (ex. offender race).

In the future, I hope to expand my research to include more years as well as more incidents (where any of the listed offenses are included in the analysis--not just the primary offense). The major takeaways from my research is that qualitative findings are extremely limited, but not totally superfluous, when it comes to financial elder abuse. Second, there is a major infrastructural problem in how we report elder abuse in the United States. The MetLife studies cited a 5:1 ratio of unreported-to-reported incidents, whereas the National Adult Protective Services Association says that ratio is 1 in 44. My findings suggest that, when it comes to financial exploitation, reporting ratios are grossly underestimated.

At this time, I am unaware of quantitative studies that focus on financial elder abuse in the United States. Hopefully, this research will prompt further inquiry to help curb incidence of elder financial exploitation by improving the ways we identify, report, and address this troubling phenomenon.

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