Socioeconomic Status and Health: Why is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?

Janet Currie, Mark Stabile

NBER Working Paper No. 9098
Issued in August 2002
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Health Care Program

Case, Lubotsky, and Paxson (2001) show that the well-known relationship between socio- economic status (SES) and health exists in childhood and grows more pronounced with age. However, in cross-sectional data it is difficult to distinguish between two possible explanations. The first is that low-SES children are less able to respond to a given health shock. The second is that low SES children experience more shocks. We show, using panel data on Canadian children that: 1) the gradient we estimate in the cross section is very similar to that estimated previously using U.S. children; 2) both high and low-SES children recover from past health shocks to about the same degree; and 3) that the relationship between SES and health grows stronger over time mainly because low-SES children receive more negative health shocks. In addition, we examine the effect of health shocks on math and reading scores. We find that health shocks affect test scores and future health in very similar ways. Our results suggest that public policy aimed at reducing SES-related health differentials in children should focus on reducing the incidence of health shocks as well as on reducing disparities in access to palliative care.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9098

Published: Currie, Janet and Mark Stabile. "Socioeconomic Status And Child Health: Why Is The Relationship Stronger For Older Children?," American Economic Review, 2003, v93(5,Dec), 1813-1823.

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