Health Dynamics and the Evolution of Health Inequality over the Life Course: The Importance of Neighborhood and Family Background

Rucker C. Johnson, University of Michigan
Bob Schoeni, University of Michigan

We analyze health dynamics and the evolution of health inequality over the life course. We use correlations collected from a nationally representative longitudinal sample of siblings and neighbors to estimate upper bounds on the causal effects of family and neighborhood background on health outcomes in early-to-mid life. We find that sibling health correlations are large throughout at least the first 30-40 years of life, averaging 0.40 at ages 30-40. While the childhood neighbor correlations are smaller, they are substantial throughout the first 30-40 years of life for males. Our estimates suggest that disparities in neighborhood background account for roughly ΒΌ of the variation in health status among males in mid life, and contribute significantly to current racial health disparities. We attempt to explain the life-cycle pattern of sibling and neighbor correlations and assess the relative roles of neighborhood and family background on the health trajectory over the life course.

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Presented in Session 9: Community and Contextual Effects on Health and Mortality I