Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Danya Keene

Second Advisor

Shelley Geballe


As a financial product, reverse mortgage are often used by elderly homeowners to protect against future felt needs, or to address present and past felt needs. Today, reverse mortgages are increasingly used for the latter two. By converting equity in homes into cash, reverse mortgages effectively spend a resource saved from the past, in order to increase options in the future, often at the expense of limiting options in the future. This is in response to many and multiple forms of scarcity faced by elderly homeowner households. Reverse mortgages are an important case study for Shafir and Mullainathan’s theory of scarcity. This study conducts a qualitative analysis of thirteen semi-structured interviews with reverse mortgage holders (and their children) to explore how scarcity affects peoples’ decisions and experiences with reverse mortgages. The present article offers theoretical value to the emerging study of scarcity, and practical value to those working with populations facing multiple, concurrent forms of scarcity, at risk of falling into the “scarcity trap.”


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 06/07/2018