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Subjective socioeconomic status and health: Relationships reconsidered


  • Nobles, Jenna
  • Weintraub, Miranda Ritterman
  • Adler, Nancy E.


Subjective status, an individual's perception of her socioeconomic standing, is a robust predictor of physical health in many societies. To date, competing interpretations of this correlation remain unresolved. Using longitudinal data on 8430 older adults from the 2000 and 2007 waves of the Indonesia Family Life Survey, we test these oft-cited links. As in other settings, perceived status is a robust predictor of self-rated health, and also of physical functioning and nurse-assessed general health. These relationships persist in the presence of controls for unobserved traits, such as difficult-to-measure aspects of family background and persistent aspects of personality. However, we find evidence that these links likely represent bi-directional effects. Declines in health that accompany aging are robust predictors of declines in perceived socioeconomic status, net of observed changes to the economic profile of respondents. The results thus underscore the social value afforded good health status.

Suggested Citation

  • Nobles, Jenna & Weintraub, Miranda Ritterman & Adler, Nancy E., 2013. "Subjective socioeconomic status and health: Relationships reconsidered," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 58-66.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:82:y:2013:i:c:p:58-66 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.01.021

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    Cited by:

    1. Haining Wang & Zhiming Cheng & Russell Smyth, 2016. "Language, Health Outcomes and Health Inequality," Monash Economics Working Papers 43-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    2. Lee, Miaw-Chwen & Huang, Nicole, 2015. "Changes in self-perceived economic satisfaction and mortality at old ages: Evidence from a survey of middle-aged and elderly adults in Taiwan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 1-8.
    3. Landefeld, John C. & Burmaster, Katharine B. & Rehkopf, David H. & Syme, S. Leonard & Lahiff, Maureen & Adler-Milstein, Sarah & Fernald, Lia C.H., 2014. "The association between a living wage and subjective social status and self-rated health: A quasi-experimental study in the Dominican Republic," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 91-97.
    4. Präg, Patrick & Mills, Melinda C. & Wittek, Rafael, 2016. "Subjective socioeconomic status and health in cross-national comparison," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 84-92.
    5. Fleuriet, K. Jill & Sunil, T.S., 2015. "Reproductive habitus, psychosocial health, and birth weight variation in Mexican immigrant and Mexican American women in south Texas," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 102-109.
    6. Ghulam Akhmat & Khalid Zaman & Tan Shukui & Yasir Javed & Shaina Khan, 2014. "Social Health Indicators and Economic Growth: Evidence from East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 119(2), pages 663-686, November.


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