Health Dynamics over the Life Course: The Effect of Childhood Health on Adult Health and Disability

Steven Haas, University of Wisconsin at Madison

This paper models health over the life course using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. It explores whether infant and childhood health have lasting effects on various measures of adult health including: self-reported health, chronic disease, disability, and changes in health over time. I find that low birth weight (LBW) individuals experience substantially worse childhood health. Furthermore, LBW and poor childhood health are associated with worse adult self-reported health, increased odds of having a work-limiting disability or a chronic disease. Those with poor early-life health are also more likely to experience a decline in their health across waves. I find no evidence that the experience of LBW and poor childhood health are further compounded by disadvantaged social background. Though education continues to be associated with adult health, this relationship is attenuated somewhat with the inclusion of childhood health into the model suggesting some effect of health selection.

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Presented in Session 104: Health and the Life Course