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From Cradle to Grave? The Lasting Impact of Childhood Health and Circumstance

Author

Listed:
  • Anne Case
  • Angela Fertig
  • Christina Paxson

Abstract

We quantify the lasting effects of childhood health and economic circumstances on adult health and earnings, using data from a birth cohort that has been followed from birth into middle age. We find, controlling for parents' incomes, educations and social status, that children who experience poor health have significantly lower educational attainment, and significantly poorer health and lower earnings on average as adults. Childhood factors appear to operate largely through their effects on educational attainment and initial adult health. Taken together with earlier findings that poorer children enter adulthood in worse health and with less education than wealthier children, these results indicate that a key determinant of health in adulthood is economic status in childhood rather than economic status in adulthood. Overall, our findings suggest more attention be paid to health as a potential mechanism through which intergenerational transmission of poverty takes place: cohort members born into poorer families experienced poorer childhood health, lower investments in human capital and poorer health in early adulthood, all of which are associated with lower earnings in middle age -- the years in which they themselves become parents.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Case & Angela Fertig & Christina Paxson, 2003. "From Cradle to Grave? The Lasting Impact of Childhood Health and Circumstance," NBER Working Papers 9788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9788
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Anne Case, 2004. "Does Money Protect Health Status? Evidence from South African Pensions," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 287-312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 2002. "Consumption, health, gender and poverty," Working Papers 261, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    3. repec:pri:rpdevs:case_money_protect_nber is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:pri:cheawb:case_paxson_economic_status_paper is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:pri:cheawb:case_money_protect_nber.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile, 2002. "Socioeconomic Status and Health: Why is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?," NBER Working Papers 9098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:pri:cheawb:case_paxson_economic_status_paper.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
    9. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
    10. Kuh, D. J. L. & Wadsworth, M. E. J., 1993. "Physical health status at 36 years in a British national birth cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 905-916, October.
    11. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
    12. repec:pri:cheawb:case_deaton_consumption_health_gender is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:pri:cheawb:case_money_protect_nber is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:pri:cheawb:case_deaton_consumption_health_gender.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:pri:rpdevs:case_deaton_consumption_health_gender is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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