Racial Differences in the Reciprocal Relationship between Heath and Socioeconomic Status across the Life Course

Liana J. Richardson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Brandon Wagner, Princeton University

Although the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and health is likely bidirectional, studies have provided mixed support for the hypothesis that health influences subsequent SES. Moreover, relatively few U.S. studies of this hypothesis have examined the potential moderating effect of race—a crucial omission given persistent black-white health and socioeconomic attainment gaps. We use data from Waves I, III, and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to examine the association between health and SES from birth to ages 24 – 32 among non-Hispanic blacks and whites. In structural equation models with latent variables, we find direct and indirect effects of early life health on subsequent SES, as well as a reciprocal relationship between health and SES in adulthood. When stratified by race, we find differences in both fit and structural coefficients, suggesting that the lifelong relationship between health and SES may differ between blacks and whites.

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Presented in Session 44: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Mortality