Recent studies find lasting effects of poor youth health on educational attainment but use young samples and narrow life course windows of observation to explore outcomes. We apply a life course framework to three sets of Health and Retirement Study birth cohorts to examine early health status effects on education and skills attainment measured late in life. The older cohorts that we study were the earliest recipients of U.S. policies promoting continuing education through the GI Bill, community college expansions and new credentials such as the GED. We examine a wide range of outcomes but focus on GEDs, postsecondary school entry and adult human capital as job-related training. We find that older U.S. cohorts had considerable exposure to these forms of attainment and that the effects of youth health on them vary by outcome: health selection and ascription group effects are weak or fade, respectively, in outcomes associated with delayed or adult attainment. However, poorer health and social disadvantage in youth and barriers associated with ascription carry forward to limit attainment of key credentials such as diplomas and college degrees. We find that the human capital - health gradient is dynamic and that narrow windows of observation in existing studies miss much of it. National context also matters for studying health-education linkages over the life course.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science