The Size of Health Selection Effects

Palloni, Alberto, Robert G. White, and Carolina Milesi
Working paper no. 2009-10


The association between adult socioeconomic status and health status has been alternately attributed to the material effects of economic status, ties between labor productivity and health and cumulative effects of early life socioeconomic status. This paper considers the lasting effects of early child health for adult socioeconomic gradients in health status. We analyze longitudinal data with measures of developmental, health and socioeconomic outcomes over the life cycle and show how poor health early in life correlates with lower schooling outcomes, lower adult occupational status and poor adult health. We then examine the cumulative effects of early child health for trajectories of both socioeconomic attainment and health accumulation with a set of counterfactual experiments of health effects over the life cycle. The results show that early child health effects contribute little to the socioeconomic gradient in health that is observed in adulthood.