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J Health Econ. 2005 Mar;24(2):365-89. Epub 2005 Jan 5.

The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance.

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Center for Health and Wellbeing, Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


We quantify the lasting effects of childhood health and economic circumstances on adult health, employment and socioeconomic status, using data from a birth cohort that has been followed from birth into middle age. Controlling for parental income, education and social class, children who experience poor health have significantly lower educational attainment, poorer health, and lower social status as adults. Childhood health and circumstance appear to operate both through their impact on initial adult health and economic status, and through a continuing direct effect of prenatal and childhood health in middle age. Overall, our findings suggest more attention be paid to health as a potential mechanism through which intergenerational transmission of economic status takes place: cohort members born into poorer families experienced poorer childhood health, lower investments in human capital and poorer health in early adulthood, all of which are associated with lower earnings in middle age-the years in which they themselves become parents.

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