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Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms

  • David M. Cutler
  • Adriana Lleras-Muney
  • Tom Vogl

This paper reviews the evidence on the well-known positive association between socioeconomic status and health. We focus on four dimensions of socioeconomic status -- education, financial resources, rank, and race and ethnicity -- paying particular attention to how the mechanisms linking health to each of these dimensions diverge and coincide. The extent to which socioeconomic advantage causes good health varies, both across these four dimensions and across the phases of the lifecycle. Circumstances in early life play a crucial role in determining the co-evolution of socioeconomic status and health throughout adulthood. In adulthood, a considerable part of the association runs from health to socioeconomic status, at least in the case of wealth. The diversity of pathways casts doubt upon theories that treat socioeconomic status as a unified concept.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14333.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms Oxford Handbook of Health Economics, 2011, with D. Cutler and A. Lleras-Muney.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14333
Note: AG HC HE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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