Social, Cultural, and Economic Capital, and Behavioral Investments in Health

TitleSocial, Cultural, and Economic Capital, and Behavioral Investments in Health
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsKrueger, PM
Date Published2004
UniversityUniversity of Colorado at Boulder
CityBoulder, CO
KeywordsAdult children, Demographics, Health Conditions and Status, Methodology

I develop a health stratification perspective to examine whether differential access to social, cultural, and economic capital account for differences in individuals' abilities and proclivities to behaviorally invest in their health. I suggest that each form of capital derives from key social institutions. To test my theoretical framework, I use the 1998 and 2000 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine changes in health behaviors over a two year period. The HRS provides a nationally representative sample of adults aged 51 and older and has detail on six key behaviors, including physical activity, smoking, binge drinking, preventive blood cholesterol tests, preventive cancer screening behaviors, and flu shot receipt. First, Chapter 4 examines the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and behavioral investments in health. I find that socioeconomic position is multidimensional and indicates people's locations in diverse institutions including the occupational hierarchy, education, employment, and the financial marketplace. Although much prior work assumes that diverse socioeconomic measures are indicators of a single underlying concept, I find that each dimension of SES has a unique association with various health behaviors. Second, Chapter 5 examines the relationship between employment, gender, and marital status. Prior research suggests that employment enhances the health of both men and women. Further, wives often have better health if their husbands work, but husbands typically have worse health if their wives work. I fail to find support for this relationship when examining health behaviors; thus prior theoretical work may not adequately explain various dimensions of health. Finally, Chapter 6 finds that marriage generally promotes healthier lifestyles among men and women. However, the quality of the marriage is important--those whose spouses have healthier lifestyles undertake healthier behaviors than those whose spouses have less healthy lifestyles. Further, prior work suggests that marriage benefits the health of men more than women. But I find that marriage benefits women more than men for some health behaviors. Thus, health research may be inadequate if it focuses on a limited number of health indicators.

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