Volume 34 - Article 10 | Pages 285-320 Editor's Choice

Childhood socioeconomic status, adult socioeconomic status, and old-age health trajectories: Connecting early, middle, and late life

By Zachary Zimmer, Heidi Hanson, Ken Smith

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:19 Jan 2015
Date published:12 Feb 2016
Word count:6109
Keywords:aging, Charlson comorbidity index (CCI), early life conditions, group based trajectory modeling, morbidity, Nam–Powers–Boyd Occupational Status Scale, older adults, socioeconomic status, trajectories
Additional files:readme.34-10 (text file, 1 kB)
 computer code (text file, 8 kB)


Background: The paper advances literature on earlier-life socioeconomic status (SES) and later-life health in a number of ways, including conceptualizing later-life health as a developmental process and relying on objective rather than retrospective reports of childhood and adult SES and health.

Methods: Data are from the Utah Population Database (N=75,019), which contains variables from Medicare claims, birth and death certificates, and genealogical records. The morbidity measure uses the Charlson Comorbidity Index. SES is based on converting occupation to Nam-Powers scores and then dividing these scores into quartiles plus farmers. Analyses are conducted in two steps. Group-based trajectory modeling estimates patterns of morbidity and survival and divides the sample into sex-specific groups ordered from least to most healthy. Multilevel ordered logistic regression incorporating Heckman selection predicts group trajectory membership by SES in adulthood conditioned upon childhood SES.

Results: Higher SES in childhood is associated with membership in groups that have more favorable morbidity trajectories and survival probabilities. SES in adulthood has additive impact, especially for females. For example, if a female is characterized as being in the lowest SES quartile during childhood, her probability of having the most favorable health trajectory improves from 0.12 to 0.17 as her adult SES increases from the lowest to highest quartile.

Conclusions: Results suggest both childhood and adult SES independently impact upon old-age health trajectories.

Author's Affiliation

Zachary Zimmer - Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada [Email]
Heidi Hanson - University of Utah, United States of America [Email]
Ken Smith - University of Utah, United States of America [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Functional limitation trajectories and their determinants among women in the Philippines
Volume 36 - Article 30

» Occupation and fertility on the frontier: Evidence from the state of Utah
Volume 30 - Article 29

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» The welfare state and demographic dividends
Volume 36 - Article 48    | Keywords: aging

» Functional limitation trajectories and their determinants among women in the Philippines
Volume 36 - Article 30    | Keywords: aging

» The spatialities of ageing: Evidencing increasing spatial polarisation between older and younger adults in England and Wales
Volume 36 - Article 25    | Keywords: aging

» Disparities in death: Inequality in cause-specific infant and child mortality in Stockholm, 1878‒1926
Volume 36 - Article 15    | Keywords: socioeconomic status

» Socioeconomic and cultural differentials in mortality in a late 19th century urban setting: A linked records study from Tartu, Estonia, 1897-1900
Volume 36 - Article 1    | Keywords: socioeconomic status