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Understanding the SES Gradient in Health Among the Elderly: The Role of Childhood Circumstances

In: Discoveries in the Economics of Aging

  • Till Stowasser
  • Florian Heiss
  • Daniel McFadden
  • Joachim Winter

Individuals’ socioeconomic status (SES) is positively correlated with their health status. While the existence of this gradient may be uncontroversial, the same cannot be said about its explanation. In this paper, we extend the approach of testing for the absence of causal channels developed by Adams et al. (2003), which in a Granger causality sense promises insights on the causal structure of the health-SES nexus. We introduce some methodological refinements and integrate retrospective survey data on early childhood circumstances into this framework. We confirm that childhood health has lasting predictive power for adult health. We also uncover strong gender differences in the intertemporal transmission of SES and health: While the link between SES and functional as well as mental health among men appears to be established rather late in life, the gradient among women seems to originate from childhood circumstances.

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This chapter was published in:
  • David A. Wise, 2014. "Discoveries in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise13-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12976.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12976
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
    2. James P. Smith & Yan Shen & John Strauss & Zhe Yang & Yaohui Zhao, 2010. "The Effects of Childhood Health on Adult Health and SES in China," Working Papers 809, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
    3. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
    4. Iris Kesternich & Bettina Siflinger & James P. Smith & Joachim K. Winter, 2014. "The Effects of World War II on Economic and Health Outcomes across Europe," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 103-118, March.
    5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2007. "Height, Health and Cognitive Function at Older Ages," Working Papers 1011, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    6. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    7. Stowasser, Till & Heiss, Florian & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2014. ""Healthy, wealthy, and wise?" revisited: An analysis of the causal pathways from socio-economic status to health," Discussion Papers in Economics 20846, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    8. Adams, Peter & Hurd, Michael D. & McFadden, Daniel & Merrill, Angela & Ribeiro, Tiago, 2003. "Healthy, wealthy, and wise? Tests for direct causal paths between health and socioeconomic status," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 3-56, January.
    9. Janet Currie, 2008. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," NBER Working Papers 13987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2008. "Height, Health and Cognitive Function at Older Ages," Working Papers 1127, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    11. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-55, June.
    12. Florian Heiss, 2011. "Dynamics of self-rated health and selective mortality," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 119-140, February.
    13. Mazzonna, Fabrizio, 2011. "The long-lasting effects of family background: A European cross-country comparison," MEA discussion paper series 11245, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    14. Lawrence M. Berger & Christina Paxson & Jane Waldfogel, 2005. "Income and Child Development," Working Papers 938, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    15. Berney, L. R. & Blane, D. B., 1997. "Collecting retrospective data: Accuracy of recall after 50 years judged against historical records," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1519-1525, November.
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