The Healthy Bird Gets the Worm: Childhood Health and Inequality in Labor Market Outcomes over the Work Career

Steven A. Haas, Arizona State University
M. Maria Glymour, Columbia University

This analysis sheds light on the relationship between health and socioeconomic status over the life course by illustrating how labor market outcomes over the work career are patterned by early life health status. The analysis takes advantage of unique data from the Health and Retirement Study linked to administrative records from the Social Security Administration to model trajectories of labor earnings between the ages 25 and 50. We find that those who experience poor childhood health have substantially diminished labor market earnings and experience increased variability in earnings over the work career. Though earning differentials start out small in early adulthood they grow larger over the life course. Part of the child health earning differential is accounted for by health-related selection into diminished educational attainment. The results have important implications both for understanding health disparities over the life course but also the early life determinants of labor market inequality.

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Presented in Session 144: Socioeconomic Status and Health: Causation and Selection