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J Health Soc Behav. 2003 Jun;44(2):198-214.

Histories of poverty and self-rated health trajectories.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


This paper investigates the dynamic relationship between poverty histories and self-rated health trajectories. We are interested in patterns of change in individuals' health over time and the ways in which such patterns are structured by continuity and change in poverty experiences. Data, collected for adults aged 25 and older in 1984 (N = 7,258), are from the 1968-1996 annual waves of Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Individual growth curves allow us to investigate health trajectories as continuous processes, as well as individual and group heterogeneity in these trajectories. We find that, on average, health deteriorates slowly over time, but there is significant variation in health in 1984 and the rate at which health declines. Histories of poverty partly accounted for the sources of individual differences in self-rated health in 1984, but they were not related to health change over time. Although increasing incomes were better for self-rated health than falling incomes, current economic circumstances did not erase the health effects of earlier poverty experiences.

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