Alexi Gugushvili: "Socioeconomic position, social mobility, and health selection effects on allostatic load in the United States"

In this article, published in PLoS ONE, Alexi Gugushvili, Grzegorz Bulczak, Olga Zelinksa and Jonathon Koltai explore the health effects of social mobility. 

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The contemporaneous association between higher socioeconomic position and better health is well established. Life course research has also demonstrated a lasting effect of childhood socioeconomic conditions on adult health and well-being. Yet, little is known about the separate health effects of intergenerational mobility—moving into a different socioeconomic position than one’s parents—among early adults in the United States. Most studies on the health implications of mobility rely on cross-sectional datasets, which makes it impossible to differentiate between health selection and social causation effects. In addition, understanding the effects of social mobility on health at a relatively young age has been hampered by the paucity of health measures that reliably predict disease onset.

Analysing 4,713 respondents aged 25 to 32 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health’s Waves I and IV, Alexi Gugushvili, Grzegorz Bulczak, Olga Zelinksa and Jonathon Koltai use diagonal reference models to separately identify the effects of socioeconomic origin and destination, as well as social mobility on allostatic load among individuals in the United States. Using a combined measure of educational and occupational attainment, and accounting for individuals’ initial health, they demonstrate that in addition to health gradient among the socially immobile, individuals’ socioeconomic origin and destination are equally important for multi-system physiological dysregulation.

Short-range upward mobility also has a positive and significant association with health. After mitigating health selection concerns in their observational data, this effect is observed only among those reporting poor health before experiencing social mobility. Their findings move towards the reconciliation of two theoretical perspectives, confirming the positive effect of upward mobility as predicted by the “rags to riches” perspective, while not contradicting potential costs associated with more extensive upward mobility experiences as predicted by the dissociative thesis.

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Published Sep. 7, 2021 3:29 PM - Last modified Sep. 8, 2021 9:38 AM