Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms

55 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2008 Last revised: 1 Sep 2010

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Adriana Lleras-Muney

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tom S. Vogl

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 2008

Abstract

This paper reviews the evidence on the well-known positive association between socioeconomic status and health. We focus on four dimensions of socioeconomic status -- education, financial resources, rank, and race and ethnicity -- paying particular attention to how the mechanisms linking health to each of these dimensions diverge and coincide. The extent to which socioeconomic advantage causes good health varies, both across these four dimensions and across the phases of the lifecycle. Circumstances in early life play a crucial role in determining the co-evolution of socioeconomic status and health throughout adulthood. In adulthood, a considerable part of the association runs from health to socioeconomic status, at least in the case of wealth. The diversity of pathways casts doubt upon theories that treat socioeconomic status as a unified concept.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Lleras-Muney, Adriana and Vogl, Tom S., Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms (September 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14333. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1267564

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Adriana Lleras-Muney

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Tom S. Vogl

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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