Socioeconomic Differentials in Health and Mortality in Mid-Life: Cause or Effect?

Michael Hurd, RAND

This study investigates the relationship between health and SES using a panel sample of mid-life adults. Mid-life is characterized by large social inequalities in health. First, the association between initial SES indicators and mortality over six years is examined to establish an independent effect of SES (education, income, and wealth) on mortality using extensive baseline SES and health controls. Next, a test to determine if SES is causally related to health in mid-life is undertaken by regressing change in health between waves 2 and 3 on change in income between waves 1 and 2. Third, the corollary that change in SES in the second interval is predicted by change in health in the first interval is considered. Preliminary analysis shows that only wealth predicts mortality. The relationship between initial wealth and subsequent mortality is not due to the effect of wealth, but rather reflects previous income, health, and family background.

Presented in Session 36: Economic Status and Health Over the Life Course