The socioeconomic origins of physical functioning among older U.S. adults.

TitleThe socioeconomic origins of physical functioning among older U.S. adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMontez, JKaras
JournalAdv Life Course Res
Date Published2013 Dec
ISSN Number1879-6974
KeywordsActivities of Daily Living, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Educational Status, Female, Health Behavior, Health Status, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Sex Factors, Socioeconomic factors, United States

Mounting evidence finds that adult health reflects socioeconomic circumstances (SES) in early life and adulthood. However, it is unclear how the health consequences of SES in early life and adulthood accumulate-for example, additively, synergistically. This study tests four hypotheses about how the health effects of early-life SES (measured by parental education) and adult SES (measured by own education) accumulate to shape functional limitations, whether the accumulation differs between men and women, and the extent to which key mechanisms explain the accumulation. It uses data from the 1994-2010 Health and Retirement Study on U.S. adults 50-100 years of age (N=24,026). The physical functioning benefits of parental and own education accumulated additively among men. While the physical functioning benefits generally accumulated among women, the functioning benefits from one's own education were dampened among women with low-educated mothers. The dampening partly reflected a strong tie between mothers' education level and women's obesity risk. Taken together, the findings reveal subtle differences between men and women in the life course origins of physical functioning. They also shed light on a key mechanism-obesity-that may help explain why a growing number of studies find that early-life SES is especially important for women's health.

User Guide Notes

Endnote Keywords

Education/Functional limitations/Gender/Health/Life course

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalAdv Life Course Res
Citation Key7941
PubMed ID24796709