Does early-life income inequality predict self-reported health in later life? Evidence from the United States

Dean R. Lillard*, Richard V. Burkhauser, Markus H. Hahn, Roger Wilkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigate the association between adult health and the income inequality they experienced as children up to 80 years earlier. Our inequality data track shares of national income held by top percentiles from 1913 to 2009. We average those data over the same early-life years and merge them to individual data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics data for 1984-2009. Controlling for demographic and economic factors, we find both men and women are statistically more likely to report poorer health if income was more unequally distributed during the first years of their lives. The association is robust to alternative specifications of income inequality and time trends and remains significant even when we control for differences in overall childhood health. Our results constitute prima facie evidence that adults' health may be adversely affected by the income inequality they experienced as children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-355
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume128
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

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