How to measure "what people do for a living" in research on the socioeconomic correlates of health

John Robert Warren, Hsiang Hui Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Recent evidence suggests that occupational standing is not independently associated with health outcomes when occupations are ranked using socioeconomic criteria. In this study we ask two questions. First, is occupational standing associated with health outcomes when health-related criteria are used to establish the relative standing of occupations? Second, are job characteristics more closely related to health outcomes than occupational characteristics? METHODS: We use data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study - that includes a unique combination of occupational, job, and health measures - and estimate a series of logistic regression models of the effects of education and job/occupational characteristics on several health outcomes. RESULTS: We find few independent relationships between occupational standing and health, using socioeconomic or health-related criteria. However, we do find some significant relationships between job characteristics and health outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that what people do for a living does matter for their health, even beyond the effects of educational attainment, but that to assess the relationships between what people do for a living and their health outcomes we should measure the characteristics of their jobs, not of their occupations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article was presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, Washington, D.C., August 2000. Research was supported by the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences with funds from the University Initiatives Fund at the University of Washington. The human subject protocol for the WLS (04-91-03) was approved by the College of Letters & Science Human Subject Committee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2/11/99. We thank Richard Miech, Robert M. Hauser, and Adrian Raftery for comments and suggestions on this project. However, errors or omissions are solely the responsibility of the authors. Data and documentation from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study are available online at .


  • Education
  • Health Status
  • Occupational Groups
  • Occupations
  • Socioeconomic Factors


Dive into the research topics of 'How to measure "what people do for a living" in research on the socioeconomic correlates of health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this