Exploring the Relationship between Childhood Economic Status and Mid-Life Health Using a Long Panel Survey of Americans
Rucker C. Johnson, University of California, Berkeley
In this paper, we examine the relationship between family income in childhood and health in mid-life. We attempt to sort out the direct effects of childhood economic status on child health that carries through into adulthood and indirect effects via adult socioeconomic status. We explore the relationship between low birth weight and subsequent health status over the life course to investigate potential long-run effects of an early life health shock. We examine the role of the timing of economic deprivation during childhood, especially poverty very early in life. The data allow us to examine income at various points in childhood—the infant years, the toddler years, through adolescence and beyond. Moreover, the analysis examines the extent to which the relationship between childhood family income and mid-life health is driven by persistently low income, as well as the extent to which large fluctuations in income in childhood have detrimental effects in adulthood.