Life Course

  • Greg Duncan
  • Arnold Milstein
  • Sean Reardon
  • Gregory Walton

Leaders: Greg Duncan, Arnold Milstein, Sean Reardon, Gregory Walton

The Life Course RG is dedicated to advancing research on life course theory and assessing how it can contribute to reducing poverty. The research within this RG focuses on issues of toxic stress, neurodevelopment, and epigenetics. The following are a few relevant projects within this RG.

Optimal timing of interventions: It has long been argued that interventions in the earliest years of childhood have larger long-term returns that interventions in later years. Is a comprehensive test of this hypothesis now possible?

Biological mechanisms of disadvantage: We’ve all heard that poverty “gets under the skin.” There is growing debate, however, on whether this biologic embedding of poverty takes an epigenetic form. A study underway at the CPI will be an especially important entry into this debate. 

Infant health and poverty: It is well known that early disadvantages at the “starting gate” parlay into later developmental disadvantages and increased risks of poverty. Are these starting-gate disparities growing larger? Using the census of U.S. birth records between 1970 and 2014, we will soon know whether they are.

Differential EITC effects: Is there a critical moment in the child’s cognitive development in which an EITC supplement is especially consequential? This question, which has long been difficult to answer, can now be taken on by linking vital statistics to administrative data for school children.

Life Course - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net Hilary Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach , Douglas Almond

Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net

Author: Hilary Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach , Douglas Almond
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 04/2016

We examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. We focus on the introduction of the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties between 1961 and 1975. We use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble unique data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to adult health and economic outcomes. Our findings indicate access to food stamps in childhood leads to a significant reduction in the incidence of metabolic syndrome and, for women, an increase in economic self-sufficiency.

Heterogeneity in State-Dependent Utility: Evidence from Strategic Surveys Jeffrey R. Brown , Gopi Shah Goda, Kathleen M. McGarry

Heterogeneity in State-Dependent Utility: Evidence from Strategic Surveys

Author: Jeffrey R. Brown , Gopi Shah Goda, Kathleen M. McGarry
Publisher: Economic Inquiry
Date: 04/2016

A standard result of life‐cycle models under uncertainty is that optimizing individuals equate the expected marginal utility of consumption across states of the world if insurance is available at actuarially fair rates. A small empirical literature has suggested that the marginal utility of consumption is lower in less healthy states. We use a novel survey‐based measure to document significant heterogeneity in health‐state dependence across individuals largely orthogonal to standard controls. We further show that individuals value unhealthy states of the world more when facing work‐limiting disabilities than when facing disabilities requiring long‐term care, and when facing physical rather than mental disabilities.

Coming of Age in the Other America Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Kathryn Edin

Coming of Age in the Other America

Author: Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Kathryn Edin
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 04/2016

Recent research on inequality and poverty has shown that those born into low-income families, especially African Americans, still have difficulty entering the middle class, in part because of the disadvantages they experience living in more dangerous neighborhoods, going to inferior public schools, and persistent racial inequality. Coming of Age in the Other America shows that despite overwhelming odds, some disadvantaged urban youth do achieve upward mobility. Drawing from ten years of fieldwork with parents and children who resided in Baltimore public housing, sociologists Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin highlight the remarkable resiliency of some of the youth who hailed from the nation’s poorest neighborhoods and show how the right public policies might help break the cycle of disadvantage.

Neighborhood Effect Heterogeneity by Family Income and Developmental Period Geoffrey T. Wodtke, Felix Elwert, David Harding

Neighborhood Effect Heterogeneity by Family Income and Developmental Period

Author: Geoffrey T. Wodtke, Felix Elwert, David Harding
Publisher: American Journal of Sociology
Date: 01/2016

Effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods on child educational outcomes likely depend on a family’s economic resources and the timing of neighborhood exposures during the course of child development. This study investigates how timing of exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods during childhood versus adolescence affects high school graduation and whether these effects vary across families with different income levels. It follows 6,137 children in the PSID from childhood through adolescence and overcomes methodological problems associated with the joint endogeneity of neighborhood context and family income by adapting novel counterfactual methods—a structural nested mean model estimated via two-stage regression with residuals—for time-varying treatments and time-varying effect moderators. Results indicate that exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly during adolescence, has a strong negative effect on high school graduation and that this negative effect is more severe for children from poor families.

The Role of Mediators in the Development of Longitudinal Mathematics Achievement Associations Watts TW, Duncan GJ, Chen M, Claessens A, Davis-Kean PE, Duckworth K, Engel M, Siegler R, Susperreguy MI

The Role of Mediators in the Development of Longitudinal Mathematics Achievement Associations

Author: Watts TW, Duncan GJ, Chen M, Claessens A, Davis-Kean PE, Duckworth K, Engel M, Siegler R, Susperreguy MI
Publisher: Child Development
Date: 12/2015

Despite research demonstrating a strong association between early and later mathematics achievement, few studies have investigated mediators of this association. Using longitudinal data (n = 1,362), this study tested the extent to which mathematics self-concepts, school placement, executive functioning, and proficiency in fractions and division account for the association between mathematics achievement in first grade and at age 15. As hypothesized, a strong longitudinal association between first-grade and adolescent mathematics achievement was present (β = .36) even after controlling for a host of background characteristics, including cognitive skills and reading ability. The mediators accounted for 39% of this association, with mathematics self-concept, gifted and talented placement, and knowledge of fractions and division serving as significant mediators.

life course - CPI Affiliates

Sean Reardon's picture Sean Reardon Education Research Group Leader, Life Course Research Group Leader, Professor of Poverty and Inequality
Stanford University
Arnold Milstein's picture Arnold Milstein Life Course Research Group Leader, Professor of Medicine, Director of Clinical Excellence Research Center
Stanford University
David Rehkopf's picture David Rehkopf Health Disparities Research Group Leader, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Stanford University
Florencia Torche's picture Florencia Torche Mobility Research Group Leader, Professor of Sociology
Stanford University
Greg J. Duncan's picture Greg J. Duncan Life Course Research Group Leader, Distinguished Professor of Education
University of California, Irvine

Pages

Life Course - Other Research

Title Author Media
Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children Ann Owens

Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children

Author: Ann Owens
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 06/2016

Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.

Behavioral and Statistical Models of Educational Inequality Anders Holm, Richard Breen

Behavioral and Statistical Models of Educational Inequality

Author: Anders Holm, Richard Breen
Publisher: Rationality and Society
Date: 06/2016

This article addresses the question of how students and their families make educational decisions. We describe three types of behavioral model that might underlie decision-making, and we show that they have consequences for what decisions are made. Our study, thus, has policy implications if we wish to encourage students and their families to make better educational choices. We also establish the conditions under which empirical analysis can distinguish between the three sorts of decision-making, and we illustrate our arguments using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study.

Addressing Child Poverty: How Does the United States Compare With Other Nations? Timothy Smeeding, Catherine Thévenot

Addressing Child Poverty: How Does the United States Compare With Other Nations?

Author: Timothy Smeeding, Catherine Thévenot
Publisher: Academic Pediatrics
Date: 04/2016

Poverty during childhood raises a number of policy challenges. The earliest years are critical in terms of future cognitive and emotional development and early health outcomes, and have long-lasting consequences on future health. In this article child poverty in the United States is compared with a set of other developed countries. To the surprise of few, results show that child poverty is high in the United States. But why is poverty so much higher in the United States than in other rich nations? Among child poverty drivers, household composition and parent's labor market participation matter a great deal. But these are not insurmountable problems. Many of these disadvantages can be overcome by appropriate public policies. For example, single mothers have a very high probability of poverty in the United States, but this is not the case in other countries where the provision of work support increases mothers' labor earnings and together with strong public cash support effectively reduces child poverty. In this article we focus on the role and design of public expenditure to understand the functioning of the different national systems and highlight ways for improvements to reduce child poverty in the United States. We compare relative child poverty in the United States with poverty in a set of selected countries. The takeaway is that the United States underinvests in its children and their families and in so doing this leads to high child poverty and poor health and educational outcomes. If a nation like the United States wants to decrease poverty and improve health and life chances for poor children, it must support parental employment and incomes, and invest in children's futures as do other similar nations with less child poverty.

Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions With Family Immigration History and Income Slopen N, Shonkoff JP, Albert MA, Yoshikawa H, Jacobs A, Stoltz R, Williams DR

Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions With Family Immigration History and Income

Author: Slopen N, Shonkoff JP, Albert MA, Yoshikawa H, Jacobs A, Stoltz R, Williams DR
Publisher: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Date: 01/2016

INTRODUCTION:

Childhood adversity is an under-addressed dimension of primary prevention of disease in children and adults. Evidence shows racial/ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of childhood adversity in the U.S., yet data on the interaction of race/ethnicity and SES for exposure risk is limited, particularly with consideration of immigration history. This study examined racial/ethnic differences in nine adversities among children (from birth to age 17 years) in the National Survey of Child Health (2011-2012) and determined how differences vary by immigration history and income (N=84,837).

METHODS:

We estimated cumulative adversity and individual adversity prevalences among white, black, and Hispanic children of U.S.-born and immigrant parents. We examined whether family income mediated the relationship between race/ethnicity and exposure to adversities, and tested interactions (analyses conducted in 2014-2015).

RESULTS:

Across all groups, black and Hispanic children were exposed to more adversities compared with white children, and income disparities in exposure were larger than racial/ethnic disparities. For children of U.S.-born parents, these patterns of racial/ethnic and income differences were present for most individual adversities. Among children of immigrant parents, there were few racial/ethnic differences for individual adversities and income gradients were inconsistent. Among children of U.S.-born parents, the Hispanic-white disparity in exposure to adversities persisted after adjustment for income, and racial/ethnic disparities in adversity were largest among children from high-income families.

CONCLUSIONS:

Simultaneous consideration of multiple social statuses offers promising frameworks for fresh thinking about the distribution of disease and the design of targeted interventions to reduce preventable health disparities.

Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood: The Intersection of Racial and Economic Inequality Among Chicagoans, 1995–2013 Kristin L. Perkins, Robert J. Sampson

Compounded Deprivation in the Transition to Adulthood: The Intersection of Racial and Economic Inequality Among Chicagoans, 1995–2013

Author: Kristin L. Perkins, Robert J. Sampson
Publisher: RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
Date: 11/2015

This paper investigates acute, compounded, and persistent deprivation in a representative sample of Chicago adolescents transitioning to young adulthood. Our investigation, based on four waves of longitudinal data from 1995 to 2013, is motivated by three goals. First, we document the prevalence of individual and neighborhood poverty over time, especially among whites, blacks, and Latinos. Second, we explore compounded deprivation, describing the extent to which study participants are simultaneously exposed to individual and contextual forms of deprivation—including material deprivation (such as poverty) and social-organizational deprivation (for example, low collective efficacy)—for multiple phases of the life course from adolescence up to age thirty-two. Third, we isolate the characteristics that predict transitions out of compounded and persistent poverty. The results provide new evidence on the crosscutting adversities that were exacerbated by the Great Recession and on the deep connection of race to persistent and compounded deprivation in the transition to adulthood.