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Active Projects

State Variation in the Relationship between Childhood Socioeconomic Status and Adult Health

A growing sociological literature examines health disparities across geographical contexts  to understand structural determinants of health and health disparities.  Studies of educational disparities across states by Jennifer Karas Montez and colleagues have found significant variation in the size of disparities for both mortality and morbidity. These studies of geographical disparities have so far only examined predictors and outcomes in adulthood, though a large literature on the early origins of disease finds evidence for the importance of the relationship between childhood socioeconomic status (SES) and adult health.


Understand these differences across states is the first step toward more closely examining the childhood contexts that increase or decrease adult health disparities. Using several years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I compare the likelihood of reporting poor health across states for adults based on their childhood SES (operationalized as parental educational attainment). I also analyze possible potential factors in this relationship including state level measures of welfare state generosity and individuals' education.

The Long-Term Health Effects of Welfare Reform

Coauthors: Kelli Komro and Melvin D. Livingston, III

Research on childhood poverty’s effects on health across the life course traditionally focuses on the effect of individual-level measures of childhood socioeconomic status on adult health. While there is some movement to consider early-life contextual factors on life course health, analyses of structural impacts are rare. Interventions on the structural level can have a stronger and larger impact compared to individualized interventions, especially when the success of the intervention depends heavily on contextual factors. This study builds on the life course and health literature, but applies a policy framework as an approach to understand structural impacts on health across the life course. 

Specifically, we investigate the effect of childhood exposure to welfare reform on adult health. We examine welfare reform as the policy exposure because it represents different types of welfare programming that vary in generosity and administrative burdens. We use data from several years of the Panel Study on Income Dynamics and a quasi-experimental design to investigate the study's two research questions: 1) what are the long-term effects on adult self-rated health and psychological distress from childhood exposure to welfare reform? And 2) do these effects differ by race/ethnicity?

Impact of Childhood Exposure to Social and Economic Policies on Adult Health: A Scoping Review 

The goal of this paper is to highlight the research conducted so far on the long-term effects of childhood exposure to social and economic policies on health outcomes in adulthood. Most policy evaluations occur soon after implementation. However, the extensive body of life course research shows that childhood experiences can have particularly long-lasting effects on outcomes. Therefore, policies should be evaluated after longer follow-up time periods to fully understand their effectiveness and impact. Despite this evidence there are only limited studies on the long-lasting effects of childhood exposure to social and economic policies. This study follows the scoping review methodology as outlined by JBI Scoping Review Network to summarize the research conducted so far with an aim of encouraging future studies in this important area.

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