Zang, Emma and Nathan Kim (2021). Intergenerational Upward Mobility and Racial Differences in Mortality Among Young Adults: Evidence from County-Level Analyses. Health and Place, 70(102628). DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2021.102628.
Inspired by the influential “deaths of despair” narrative, which emphasizes the role of worsening economic opportunity in driving the increasing mortality for non-Hispanic Whites in the recent decades, a rising number of studies have provided suggestive evidence that upward mobility levels across counties may partly explain variations in mortality rates. A gap in the literature is the lack of life-course studies examining the relationship between early-life upward mobility and later-life mortality across counties. Another gap is the lack of studies on how the relationship between upward mobility and mortality across counties varies across diverse sociodemographic populations. This study examines differences across race and sex in the relationship between early-life intergenerational upward mobility and early adulthood mortality at the county level. We use administrative data on upward mobility and vital statistics data on mortality across 3030 counties for those born between 1978 and 1983. We control for a variety of county-level socioeconomic variables in a model with fixed effects for state and year. Subgroup analyses by educational attainment and urban status were also performed for each race-sex combination. Results show strong negative relationships between early-life upward mobility and early adulthood mortality across racial-sex combinations, with a particularly greater magnitude for non-Hispanic Black males. In addition, individuals without a college degree and living in urban counties are particularly affected by early life upward mobility. The findings of this study highlight the vulnerability of less-educated, young urban Black males, due to the intersecting effects of the urban context, education, race, and sex.
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