The Impact of Familial Socioeconomic Resources on Childhood Sickness: Evidence from Late 19th Century America

Laurie Knies, University of Minnesota
John R. Warren, University of Minnesota
Elaine Hernandez, University of Texas at Austin

We estimate the impact of socioeconomic resources on children’s sickness in the late 19th century US in order to understand whether the capacity to avoid sickness is a precondition for gradients in sickness. Using logistic regression techniques and data from linked 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census records, we model childhood sickness in 1880 as a function of socioeconomic status in 1870 and 1880. We estimate the impact of family wealth, parents’ literacy, and father’s occupation on whether children were sick in 1880 and on whether children suffered from (1) infectious, mosquito-borne diseases; (2) other infectious diseases; (3) traumatic injuries; and (4) other chronic diseases. We also considered socioeconomic gradients in survival beyond 1880 among children who were sick in 1880. Socioeconomic resources were not associated with children’s odds of sickness in 1880. However, among sick children, socioeconomic advantage was associated with reduced mortality.

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Presented in Session 76: SES and Health and Mortality