Parental Health and Children's Economic Well-Being

This study sets out to discover how individual life events, and in particular poor health of the head of a family, affect children's exposure to deprivation, and if families with certain traits such as single parent household are more influenced than others.

The cumulative effects of deprivation on a family can influence the ability of its members to cope with negative life events such as poor health. In this study, the researchers examine how much individual and family life events, specifically incidents of parental poor health, affect a child's exposure to economic disadvantage. The analysis is based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative study conducted annually since 1968 by the University of Michigan. Of the sample studied, 6.6 percent (167) of children resided with families in which the head of household was in poor health for at least one year.

Key Findings:

  • First, for some children the association between parental poor health and economic well-being is spurious, in particular for children from long-term poor backgrounds or for children whose heads of household are in the process of ascending the socioeconomic ladder.
  • Second, parental poor health has significant effects on the economic well-being of children from more advantaged families, as well as families experiencing downward socioeconomic mobility.

The group-based modeling strategy used by the researchers could be extended to study how other life events may affect the individual's and family's life course.