Alexi Gugushvili and PatrickPräg: Intergenerational social mobility and health in Russia: Mind over matter?
Published in Advances in Life Course Research, 2020
The consequences of changing one’s socio-economic status over the life course—i.e. social mobility—for individual health are not well understood. Theories of the health implications of social mobility draw on the human perception of one’s changing conditions, but empirical studies mostly examine the health implications of moving from objectively defined indicators of parental socio-economic position such as education, occupation, or income, to own socio-economic position in adult life. Little is known about the consequences of individuals’ own assessment of changes in socio-economic position for health outcomes. In this study, we examine the association of social mobility and health in a unique sample of the Russian population after the transition to a market society. We take a broad perspective on social mobility, putting emphasis on subjectively perceived social mobility. Results show that individuals’ objective characteristics only partially explain the variation in their subjective perceptions of intergenerational mobility. Net of social origin and destination variables, subjective social mobility is associated with individuals’ health outcomes, as measured by the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey. Those who perceive being upwardly mobile report better health, and downward mobility is associated with poorer health. The association holds for mental and physical health, for perceived downward and upward social mobility, and for a general subjective measure of mobility and a subjective measure prompting respondents to only think of mobility in terms of occupation. These findings are robust to controlling for a rich set of socio-demographic predictors on childhood adversity, contemporaneous material wellbeing, and family-related circumstances. We conclude that a conventional focus on single socio-economic status dimensions such as occupation might be too narrow to capture the health consequences of social mobility.