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The Long Reach of Childhood Health and Circumstance: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study

  • Anne Case

    (Princeton University)

  • Christina Paxson

    (Princeton University)

We use data from the Whitehall II Study to examine the joint evolution of health status and economic status over the life course. We study the links between health and socioeconomic status in childhood and health and employment status in middle and older ages. Because the population from which this cohort was drawn consisted almost exclusively of white collar civil servants, the Whitehall II sample will in general provide inconsistent estimates of the association between childhood conditions and adult outcomes for the population as a whole. To sign the direction of the bias, we compare our findings for Whitehall II with those from two nationally representative data sets in which we can mimic selection into white collar positions. We find that the Whitehall II estimates are systematically lower than those from our nationally representative cohorts, until we restrict those cohorts to their white collar members only. In contrast to researchers who have used the Whitehall II data to argue against parental disadvantage as an explanation of socioeconomic inequality in health, we find early life socioeconomic status is significantly associated with health over the life course. Using fixed effect first-difference models, we examine the association between health and employment status in middle age and health and employment status at older ages. We find that current position in the civil service is not associated with future health, but current self-assessed health is significantly associated with promotion in the civil service.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies. in its series Working Papers with number 1285.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pri:rpdevs:case_and_paxson_whitehall_jan_2011
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  1. Sandra E. Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2006. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," CEE Discussion Papers 0061, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  2. Case, Anne & Paxson, Christina, 2001. "Mothers and others: who invests in children's health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 301-328, May.
  3. Chandola, Tarani & Bartley, Mel & Sacker, Amanda & Jenkinson, Crispin & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Health selection in the Whitehall II study, UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(10), pages 2059-2072, May.
  4. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Working Papers 10197/317, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2010. "Causes And Consequences Of Early Life Health," Working Papers 1213, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  6. Angus S. Deaton & Raksha Arora, 2009. "Life at the top: the benefits of height," NBER Working Papers 15090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Open Access publications 10197/316, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  8. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
  9. Anne Case & Christina Paxson & Mahnaz Islam, 2008. "Making Sense Of The Labor Market Height Premium: Evidence From The British Household Panel Survey," Working Papers 1072, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  10. 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.
  11. James P. Smith, 2007. "The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health over the Life-Course," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
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