Socioeconomic Trajectories and the Mental Health Status of African American Adults

Alexis Dennis , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Julie Skalamera, University of Texas at Austin
Robert Hummer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Prior research examining the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and mental health among African Americans has rarely accounted for fluctuations in SES from childhood into adulthood, or how adulthood offers opportunities for upward or downward mobility. To address these gaps, we follow a sample of African Americans from Wave I to V of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to assess how dynamic socioeconomic processes unfold across the life course and are associated with mental health outcomes in adulthood. Results demonstrate that downward mobility and persistent disadvantage were consistently associated with poor mental health in adulthood. Additionally, individuals with upward or downward mobility in adulthood reported higher levels of poor mental health than individuals with consistently high SES. Our results indicate that SES is predictive of mental health among African American adults, with the association dependent on stability and fluctuation in SES across the life course.

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 Presented in Session 133. Race, Ethnicity, and the Demography of Mental Health