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

  • Anne Case
  • Christina Paxson

We use data from the Whitehall II study to examine the potential role played by early-life health and circumstances in determining health and employment status in middle and older ages. The population from which the Whitehall II cohort was drawn consisted almost exclusively of white collar civil servants. We demonstrate that estimates of the impact of early-life conditions based on the Whitehall II cohort provide a lower bound on the effect of early-life circumstances on adult health and economic status for the population as a whole. That said, using the Whitehall II cohort data, we find early life circumstances are all predictive of entry grade and promotion to higher grade in Whitehall. Even with controls for entry grade or current grade, we find that childhood circumstances predict cohort members' current health status. Using fixed effect and first-difference models of self-assessed health status and civil service employment grade, we find no evidence of civil service grade affecting future self-assessed health. However, we find self-assessed health has a significant effect on future civil service grade.

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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. Deaton, Angus & Arora, Raksha, 2009. "Life at the top: The benefits of height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 133-136, July.
  2. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2010. "Causes and consequences of early-life health," Demography, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages S65-S85, March.
  3. 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.
  4. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 1864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  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. 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.
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