Health selection and the process of social stratification: the effect of childhood health on socioeconomic attainment

J Health Soc Behav. 2006 Dec;47(4):339-54. doi: 10.1177/002214650604700403.


This study investigates whether childhood health acts as a mechanism through which socioeconomic status is transferred across generations. The study uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to track siblings and to estimate fixed-effects models that account for unobserved heterogeneity at the family level. The results demonstrate that disadvantaged social background is associated with poor childhood health. Subsequently, poor health in childhood has significant, direct, and large adverse effects on educational attainment and wealth accumulation. In addition, childhood health appears to have indirect effects on occupational standing, earnings, and wealth via educational attainment and adult health status. The results further show that socioeconomic health gradients are best understood as being embedded within larger processes of social stratification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Infant
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Social Class*
  • Social Justice*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors