Is the "Long Arm of Childhood" Growing Shorter? Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Changes in U.S. Adult Mortality

Ryan K. Masters, Columbia University
Mark D. Hayward, University of Texas at Austin

The early-life conditions of U.S. birth cohorts have markedly improved over the past 100 years. At the same time, education in adulthood has grown increasingly important in securing good health and lowering mortality risk. Consequently, at the population-level the “long arm of childhood” is growing shorter with respect to U.S. adult mortality risk. Further, these are inherently cohort forces which substantially differ for the U.S. white and black populations. We use the NHIS-LMF 1986-2006 and U.S. census data to illustrate how racial differences in cohort patterns of U.S. adult mortality are tied to racial inequalities in both early-life conditions and disparate health returns to educational attainment. These long-term, cumulative, cohort processes sustain significant and substantive racial disparities in socioeconomic gradients of U.S. mortality.

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Presented in Session 98: Race, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Health and Mortality