American Sociological Association

Life Course Pathways of Economic Hardship and Mobility and Midlife Trajectories of Health

We utilize over 40 years of prospective data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (N = 1,229) and repeated-measures latent class analysis to examine how long-term patterns of stability and change in economic hardship from childhood to adulthood are related to subsequent trajectories of midlife health. We review conceptual and methodological approaches to examining health inequality across the life course and highlight the contribution of a person-centered, disaggregated approach to modeling health and its association with long-term pathways of economic resources, including changing resources associated with mobility. Findings suggest those who experienced early mobility out of economic hardship were less likely than those in persistent economic hardship to experience a high-risk health trajectory, while experiencing later mobility did not lessen this risk. We conclude with a call for further investigation into the role of social mobility and the timing, degree, and direction of change in investigations of health inequality.


Willson, A. E., Shuey, K. M.





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