Childhood trauma and adult human capital


Henkhaus, Laura E. (2018). Childhood trauma and adult human capital. Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America. Denver, CO.


Scientists posit neurobiological mechanisms explaining effects of chronic childhood stress on physiological systems and cognitive development, yet extant literature has largely ignored the potential consequences of childhood abuse on later-life productivity and economic wellbeing. Here, I used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to measure the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and adult human capital outcomes. When accounting for demographics, other adverse childhood experiences, childhood socioeconomic status, and neighborhood-level factors, childhood sexual abuse was associated with no lower likelihood of having a high school degree by young adulthood but much lower likelihoods of having a high school diploma and of having a college degree. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse were less likely to be working full-time and earned lower incomes, on average. This study highlights the importance of detection of childhood sexual abuse and quality treatment of trauma symptoms to avoid durable consequences on economic wellbeing.



childhood trauma education income economic well-being

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America

Series Title

Early childhood experiences and resilience


Henkhaus, Laura E.

Year Published


City of Publication

Denver, CO

Reference ID