Rucker Johnson

THE INFLUENCE OF EARLY-LIFE EVENTS ON HUMAN CAPITAL, HEALTH STATUS, AND LABOR MARKET OUTCOMES OVER THE LIFE COURSE

Rucker Johnson, Goldman School of Public Policy (UC Berkeley)
Robert Schoeni, Institute for Social Research (U of Michigan)

  1. Background & Objective

    The long-run consequences of growing up poor or experiencing early-life health shocks have far-reaching impacts and contribute to various socioeconomic dimensions of inequality. A large body of empirical evidence affirms, for example, the fetal origins hypothesis or "programming" concept. Such early-life health shocks persist and/or make future health status more sensitive to subsequent assaults.

    Our goal was to investigate linkages between health & economic status in initial stages of life, and health, education, & income in adulthood.

  2. Unique Aspects of this Research

    • 1st evidence of link between birth outcomes & adult health for a nationally representative U.S. sample
    • Childhood measures are not based on long recalls
    • Superior measures of income in childhood & adulthood
    • Data spanning substantial share of life course: 35 yrs
    • Sufficient sample of low-income and minority population to examine disparities
    • Comparisons within families: sibling fixed effects

  3. Research Questions

    • Socioeconomic determinants of birth outcomes:
      • Is there an intergenerational transmission of risk for low birth weight?
      • What are the long-run consequences of unintended pregnancy for the development of children beyond infancy?
    • What are the socioeconomic consequences of poor infant health over the life course?
    • Does low birth weight affect child/adult health, education, & labor market outcomes?
    • Does childhood family income affect child/adult health, education, and labor market earnings?
    • Do long-run consequences of low birth weight depend on...
      • childhood family income, health insurance, and parental health behaviors?

  4. Preview of Findings

    • Significant & substantive relationship between low birth weight & adult health, education, & earnings
      • Effect of low birth weight on adult health...
        • is smaller for families with health insurance at birth
        • increases with age
      • Effect on earnings only partially explained by effect on education
      • Robust to sibling fixed effects
    • Early-life events can explain substantial share of current racial health disparities in adulthood

  5. The Data & How We Used It

    Sample Selection:
    • Male PSID sample members born 1951-1975 & followed through 2003
      • 2,745 boys in 1,444 families
        • 1,187 families have at least 2 boys
      • 26,407 person-year observations
    • Key dependent variable is general health status
      • Health data available 1984-2003
        • Sample largely in their 20s, 30s, and 40s

  6. Series of Relationships Investigated:
    • Child and Adult health
      • low birth weight
      • childhood family income
      • health insurance, parental health behaviors, parental education, fertility preferences
      • interactions of the above factors
    • Child Cognitive Achievement and Educational attainment
      • low birth weight, child family income
    • Labor market outcomes
      • low birth weight
      • childhood family income
    Health Measures & Models:
    • Birth weight
      • Low birth weight reported by the mother in 1985: <5.5 lbs
    • Health measure - general health status (GHS)
    • Models
      • Regressions with & without sibling fixed effects
  7. Summary

    • Being born low weight...
      • ages you by 12 years,
      • increases the odds of dropping out of high school by 5 percentage points,
      • lowers achievement scores, and
      • lowers labor force participation by 5 percentage points, and
      • reduces labor market earnings by 14%
    • Effects on health are mitigated by having health insurance in childhood
    • Retrospectively reported health in childhood is strongly related to low birth weight
      • accounts for 20% of the birth weight effect on adult health
    • Prevalence of childhood conditions is related to low birth weight and parental economic status
    • Onset of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, asthma in adulthood strongly related to low birth weight and childhood poverty

  8. Implications

    • Long reach of childhood experiences
      • Interventions in early-life have long-run benefits
    • Intergenerational transmission of health & well-being reproduces disparities across generations

COLLAGE OF CHARTS ON RESULTS













LIST OF PUBLICATIONS

"The Road to Economic Self-Sufficiency: Job Quality and Job Transition Patterns After Welfare Reform" (with Mary Corcoran) published in the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management (Fall 2003), 22(4): 615-639.

"Landing a Job in Urban Space: The Extent and Effects of Spatial Mismatch", published in Regional Science & Urban Economics (May 2006), 36(3): 331-372 .

"Wage and Job Dynamics After Welfare Reform: The Importance of Job Skills", 2005. Forthcoming in Research in Labor Economics (2006, in press).

"Welfare Reform: The Morning After" (with Sheldon Danziger) published in the Milken Institute Review (Winter 2005).