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The Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Child and Adolescent Physical Health: An Organization and Systematic Comparison of Measures

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  • Joseph Wolfe

Abstract

Prior research has established a link between SES and early life health without providing clear theoretical or empirical evidence for using any particular conceptualization or operationalization of SES. Researchers refer to almost any combination of variables related to families’ economic, educational, or occupational circumstances as SES. This abundance of operationalizations makes it difficult to determine how exactly SES shapes early life health. Childhood and adolescence are unique periods of life delineated by extensive social, psychological, and physical transitions. Although these changes may make children and adolescents sensitive to different aspects of SES, research has yet to systematically compare an array of SES measures extensive enough to rigorously examine this possibility. To address this gap, I merge the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the NLSY79 Children and Young Adults datasets. In analyses, I consider multiple operationalizations of SES derived from the distinct components conceptualization of SES. I find that the best model of SES and early life health includes family income, wealth, education, and occupational prestige. Family income and wealth play especially important roles in early life health but also impact child and adolescent health differently. Children’s health is more vulnerable to their families’ wealth, while adolescents’ health is more sensitive to their families’ current income. Together, the countervailing effects of family income and wealth negate one another such that the overall effect of economic conditions on health is the same for children and adolescents. My findings provide evidence that future research should carefully consider multiple measures of SES when studying the relationship between SES and early life health. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Wolfe, 2015. "The Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Child and Adolescent Physical Health: An Organization and Systematic Comparison of Measures," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 39-58, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:123:y:2015:i:1:p:39-58
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-014-0733-4
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    1. Deniz Karaoğlan & Dürdane Şirin Saraçoğlu, 2018. "Socio-Economic Factors Affecting Early Childhood Health: the Case of Turkey," Child Indicators Research, Springer;The International Society of Child Indicators (ISCI), vol. 11(3), pages 1051-1075, June.
    2. Gwangeun Choi, 2021. "Individuals’ socioeconomic position, inequality perceptions, and redistributive preferences in OECD countries," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 19(2), pages 239-264, June.
    3. Joseph Wolfe & Shawn Bauldry & Melissa Hardy & Eliza Pavalko, 2018. "Multigenerational socioeconomic attainments and mortality among older men: An adjacent generations approach," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 39(26), pages 719-752.

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