Struggling in the Land of Opportunity: Examining Racial Heterogeneity in the Health and Mortality Consequences of Intergenerational Educational Mobility

Jake Tarrence , The Ohio State University

There is no theoretical consensus regarding how changes in socioeconomic position across generations, either upward or downward social mobility, influences health. Further, little research explores how the health consequences of social mobility may vary by race. Integrating theories from social mobility and medical sociology, this research uses data from the General Social Survey and the National Death Index (N=32613) and diagonal reference models to isolate the health consequences of intergenerational educational mobility on self-rated health and mortality risk. Results demonstrate detrimental health consequences of downward mobility, and that downward mobility is more consequential to the subjective health of whites relative to African Americans. Results also show that upward educational mobility is less beneficial to the health of African Americans relative to whites. These findings suggest interventions to increase upward educational mobility may improve overall population health, but have limited effect on reducing racial disparities in health and mortality.

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 Presented in Session 38. Intergenerational Processes in Population Health