The health impact of upward mobility: Does socioeconomic attainment make youth more vulnerable to stressful circumstances?


Wickrama, Kandauda; O’Neal, Catherine Walker; & Lee, Tae Kyoung (2016). The health impact of upward mobility: Does socioeconomic attainment make youth more vulnerable to stressful circumstances?. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. vol. 45 (2) pp. 271-285


Previous research has documented that adolescent stressful life experiences have a long-term detrimental influence on cardio-metabolic disease risk. While studies have focused on either the moderating or mediating effects of youth socioeconomic competence, drawing from a life course perspective, we estimate these mediating and moderating effects simultaneously within a single analytical framework. The study used a nationally representative sample of 11,271 adolescents (53 % female) over 13 years. The sample included 49 % minority youth (21 % Blacks, 16 % Hispanics, 6 % Asians, 4 % multiracial youth, and 2 % Native Americans). The analyses focused specifically on adolescents’ stressful life experiences, their socioeconomic development (conceptualized as their future orientation in adolescence as well as their educational attainment and income in young adulthood), and cardio-metabolic disease risk in young adulthood (assessed by a measure of allostatic load consisting of nine regulatory bio-markers). The study findings indicated detrimental influences of stressful life experiences on both socioeconomic development and young adult cardio-metabolic disease risk and a beneficial additive influence of positive socioeconomic development on young adult cardio-metabolic health. However, there was also evidence that striving for socioeconomic attainment increased the detrimental influence of stressful life experiences on young adult cardio-metabolic health. These study findings have important implications for our understanding about youth resilience in relation to stressful life contexts and for the formulation of policies and programs for promoting youth health.



Allostatic load Early adversity Education Future orientation Income

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Youth and Adolescence


Wickrama, Kandauda
O’Neal, Catherine Walker
Lee, Tae Kyoung

Year Published


Volume Number


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December 18, 2015



Reference ID