|Title||Childhood Circumstances and Health Inequality in Old Age: Comparative Evidence from China and the USA|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2020|
|Authors||Chen, X, Yan, B, Gill, TM|
|Journal||Social Indicators Research|
|Keywords||childhood circumstances, Frailty, inequality of opportunity, life course approach, Mental Health, Self-rated health|
This paper estimates the extent to which childhood circumstances contribute to health inequality in old age and evaluates the importance of major domains of childhood circumstances to health inequalities in the USA and China. We link two waves of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study in 2013 and 2015 with the newly released 2014 Life History Survey, and two waves of the Health and Retirement Study in 2014 and 2016 with the newly released 2015 Life History Mail Survey in the USA, to quantify health inequality due to childhood circumstances for which they have little control. Using the Shapley value decomposition approach, we show that childhood circumstances may explain 7–16 and 14–30% of health inequality in old age in China and the USA, respectively. Specifically, the contribution of childhood circumstances to health inequality is larger in the USA than in China for self-rated health, mental health, and physical health. Examining domains of childhood circumstance, regional and rural/urban status contribute more to health inequality in China, while family socioeconomic status contributes more to health inequality in the USA. Our findings support the value of a life course approach in identifying the key determinants of health in old age. Distinguishing sources of health inequality and rectifying inequality due to early childhood circumstances should be the basis of policy promoting health equity.