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The quantitatively large association between many measures of socioeconomic status (SES) and a variety of health outcomes appears pervasive over time and across countries at quite different levels of economic development. But many analytical difficulties exist in trying to understand its meaning, including the complex dimensionality of health status which produces considerable heterogeneity in health outcomes, the two-way interaction between health and economic status, and the separation of anticipated from unanticipated health or economic shocks. Presented here is new evidence on these issues using the first three waves of the Health and Retirement Survey, a representative national sample of 7,702 households (12,652 individuals) containing a person born between 1931 and 1941. The baseline was fielded during 1992-1993 with follow-ups at two-year intervals. Studies that ignore the large impacts that health status can have on SES are simply missing a major part of the story.

Originally published in: American Economic Review, v. 88, no. 22, May 1998, pp. 192-196.

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