Multigenerational Attainments and Mortality Among Older Men: An Adjacent Generations Approach

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:42
Oral Presentation
Joseph WOLFE, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Shawn BAULDRY, Purdue University, USA
Melissa HARDY, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Eliza PAVALKO, Indiana University, USA
Recent work in stratification emphasizes the importance of multiple familial generations in status attainment and other transmission processes. In support of this line of thought, studies find evidence that grandparent and parent socioeconomic attainments are associated with both children’s life chances and health in early life and adulthood. Health disparities research in this area generally assumes that the rewards of attainment are paid forward across successive generations, meaning grandparent and parent achievements give children an advantage, but an emerging literature suggests that mortality risk in old age may be more closely linked to the attainments of parents and adult children, i.e., adjacent generations. No single study, however, considers the unique multigenerational structure of health disparities suggested by this literature. To address this gap, we use nearly complete and recently updated information on mortality from the National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men (NLS-OM), a nationally representative sample of U.S. men aged 45 to 59 beginning in 1966. These men were followed for over two decades, providing extensive biographical information about themselves, their parents, and their adult children. Our results support a three-generation model in which men with high-attaining adult children have an especially low risk of mortality in later life when compared to fathers with low-attaining children and men who remain childless. More broadly, our findings highlight the importance of accounting for the attainments of adjacent generations and suggest that increasing educational and occupational opportunities for children and young adults may help generate broader improvements in population health among older adults.