Has the Socioeconomic Gradient in Child Health Evolved over Birth Cohorts?

Edward Berchick, Princeton University

Research has established a clear socioeconomic gradient in child health: children born to socioeconomically advantaged mothers enjoy higher birth weight, better general health status, and fewer health conditions than those from more humble origins. Work on this topic generally views the strength of the gradient as fixed; however, transformed social and demographic contexts might have revised the meaning of maternal schooling for child health. Secular trends in health and education might have narrowed the education gradient, whereas advantaged families’ engagement in a “reproduction project” marked by increased child-focused resource allocation might have offset these gains. Given these competing possibilities, I use data from the 1982-2013 National Health Interview Surveys to examine cohort trends in the association between maternal schooling and child health. These analyses highlight the ways in which broader social patterns shape children’s outcomes that have implications for inequality across the life course.

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Presented in Session 130: Cumulative Disadvantage and Health: Changes over Time?