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The Long Reach of Childhood Health and Circumstance: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study

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  • Anne Case
  • Christina Paxson

Abstract

We use data from the Whitehall II Study to examine the joint evolution of health status and economic status over the life course. We study the links between health and socioeconomic status in childhood and health and employment status in middle and older ages. Because the population from which this cohort was drawn consisted almost exclusively of white collar civil servants, the Whitehall II sample will in general provide inconsistent estimates of the association between childhood conditions and adult outcomes for the population as a whole. To sign the direction of the bias, we compare our findings for Whitehall II with those from two nationally representative data sets in which we can mimic selection into white collar positions. We find that the Whitehall II estimates are systematically lower than those from our nationally representative cohorts, until we restrict those cohorts to their white collar members only. In contrast to researchers who have used the Whitehall II data to argue against parental disadvantage as an explanation of socioeconomic inequality in health, we find early life socioeconomic status is significantly associated with health over the life course. Using fixed effect first-difference models, we examine the association between health and employment status in middle age and health and employment status at older ages. We find that current position in the civil service is not associated with future health, but current self-assessed health is significantly associated with promotion in the civil service.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 121 (2011)
Issue (Month): 554 (08)
Pages: F183-F204

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:121:y:2011:i:554:p:f183-f204

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  1. James P. Smith, 2007. "The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health over the Life-Course," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
  2. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
  3. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2006. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19425, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Case, Anne & Paxson, Christina, 2001. "Mothers and others: who invests in children's health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 301-328, May.
  5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2010. "Causes And Consequences Of Early Life Health," Working Papers 1213, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  6. Anne Case & Christina Paxson & Mahnaz Islam, 2008. "Making Sense of the Labor Market Height Premium: Evidence From the British Household Panel Survey," NBER Working Papers 14007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Chandola, Tarani & Bartley, Mel & Sacker, Amanda & Jenkinson, Crispin & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Health selection in the Whitehall II study, UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(10), pages 2059-2072, May.
  8. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
  9. Deaton, Angus & Arora, Raksha, 2009. "Life at the top: The benefits of height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 133-136, July.
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