Early Life Socioeconomic Status and Adult Physiological Functioning: A Life Course Examination of Biosocial Mechanisms

Yang Claire Yang, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kristen M. Schorpp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A growing literature has demonstrated a linkage between early-life socioeconomic conditions and adult disease measured at one stage in the life course. Understanding this link at any point in time, however, demands comparisons across life stages to more clearly specify timing, duration, and the intermediate mechanisms of SES gradients. Using three national, longitudinal datasets (Add Health, MIDUS, NSHAP), we assess the extent to which the associations between SES and biophysiological outcomes are consistent with the sensitive period, accumulation of risks, pathway, and/or social mobility models at various stages in the life course. For each dataset, we constructed and standardized composite measures of early-life SES and adult SES and harmonized biophysiological measurements of immune, cardiovascular, and metabolic functioning. We find that the relative importance of early-life and adult SES varied across young-, mid-, and late-adulthood, with accumulation of risks operating in young adulthood and pathway and mobility models in later adulthood.

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Presented in Session 213: Cumulative Inequalities, Life Course, and Aging