McMartin, Andrew (2018). Socioeconomic rank among peers and adolescent wellbeing. Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America.
Past work implicates relative deprivation and related psychosocial processes in the negative association between economic inequality and population health. Although diffuse measures of inequality across broad aggregates have received the most attention, recent research suggests that relative deprivation largely wields influence through peer comparisons in local contexts. Using data from Add Health, I assess the effect of socioeconomic rank among schoolmates on adolescent wellbeing. I address several limitations of past work by (1) identifying an explicit local reference group, (2) leveraging conditionally exogenous variation between cohorts and across school-pairs to mitigate selection bias, and (3) applying a more comprehensive measure of socioeconomic rank. In line with social comparison theories, findings indicate that lower rank may degrade psychosocial health, net of absolute status. The salience of locally-constituted inequality during this sensitive period of the life course complicates the assumption that mere exposure to advantaged peers produces straightforward benefits.
Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America
City of Publication