CitationYang, Yang Claire; Gerken, Karen; Schorpp, Kristen M.; Boen, Courtney; & Harris, Kathleen Mullan (2017). Early-Life Socioeconomic Status and Adult Physiological Functioning: A Life Course Examination of Biosocial Mechanisms. Biodemography and Social Biology. vol. 63 (2) pp. 87-103
AbstractA growing literature has demonstrated a link between early-life socioeconomic conditions and adult health at a singular point in life. No research exists, however, that specifies the life course patterns of socioeconomic status (SES) in relation to the underlying biological processes that determine health. Using an innovative life course research design consisting of four nationally representative longitudinal datasets that collectively cover the human life span from early adolescence to old age (Add Health, MIDUS, NSHAP, and HRS), we address this scientific gap and assess how SES pathways from childhood into adulthood are associated with biophysiological outcomes in different adult life stages. For each dataset, we constructed standardized composite measures of early-life SES and adult SES and harmonized biophysiological measurements of immune and metabolic functioning. We found that the relative importance of early-life SES and adult SES varied across young, mid, and late adulthood, such that early-life SES sets a life course trajectory of socioeconomic well-being and operates through adult SES to influence health as adults age. We also documented evidence of the detrimental health effects of downward mobility and persistent socioeconomic disadvantage. These findings are the first to specify the life course patterns of SES that matter for underlying biophysiological functioning in different stages of adulthood. The study thus contributes new knowledge critical for improving population health by identifying the particular points in the life course at which interventions might be most effective in preventing disease and premature mortality.
Reference TypeJournal Article
Journal TitleBiodemography and Social Biology
Author(s)Yang, Yang Claire
Schorpp, Kristen M.
Harris, Kathleen Mullan