Does Growing Childhood Socioeconomic Inequality Mean Future Inequality in Adult Health?

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Over the past half century, American children have experienced increasingly unequal childhoods. The goal of this article is to begin to understand the implications of recent trends in social and economic inequalities among children for the future of inequalities in health among adults. The relative importance of many of the causal pathways linking childhood social and economic circumstances to adult health remains underexplored, and we know even less about how these causal pathways have changed over time. I combine a series of original analyses with reviews of relevant literature in a number of fields to inform a discussion of what growing childhood inequalities might mean for future inequalities in adult health. In the end, I argue that there is good reason to suppose that growing inequalities in children’s social and economic circumstances will lead to greater heterogeneity in adults’ morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-330
Number of pages39
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • health disparities
  • life course
  • socioeconomic inequality

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