Re-Constructing Childhood Health Histories

by James P. Smith

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This paper provides evidence about the quality of retrospective childhood health histories given to respondents in the Health and Retirement Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Even though information on early life health events is critical, there is legitimate skepticism about the ability of older respondents to remember specific health problems that they had as a child. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that this is too negative a view. Respondents appear to remember salient childhood events about themselves such as the illnesses they had as a child quite well. Moreover, these physical and psychological childhood health events are important correlates of adult health during middle age.

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