Intergenerational Social Mobility and Health Across the Life Course:Does the Long Arm of Childhood Conditions Become Visible Only in Later Life?
Nadia Steiber1, Bettina Schuck2
1Wittgenstein Centre for Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna, Austria. 2Ruprecht‐Karls‐Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract

This study investigates the health consequences of socio-economic trajectories across the life course, i.e. of socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood and adulthood, and of the mobility trajectory. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (N=18,972), and applying non-linear diagonal reference models (that are able to disentangle the effect of intergenerational social mobility from the effects of childhood and adult SEP); we find the relative weight of childhood SEP and adult SEP as predictors to crucially depend on when in the life course health is measured. Whereas hardly any positive impact of a high childhood SEP can be found for those aged below 50, childhood SEP becomes a highly relevant predictor of health in people’s 60s and 70s. In contrast to many prior studies, we find evidence for significant net mobility effects, suggesting that upward mobility is conducive to health in mid-life and the reverse for downward mobility.