Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The effects of socioeconomic status on child and adolescent health: An organization and systematic comparison of measures
by Wolfe, Joseph D., Ph.D., Indiana University, 2013, 326; 3607026
Abstract (Summary)

Prior research has established a link between SES and early-life health without providing clear theoretical or empirical evidence for using any particular conceptualization or operationalization of SES. Researchers refer to any combination of variables related to economic, educational, and occupational circumstances as SES. This abundance of operationalizations makes it difficult to determine how SES shapes early-life health. Different operationalizations may even cause inconsistent conclusions when comparing the effects of SES on child and adolescent health. Thus, by failing to consider multiple operationalizations of SES, current research is unable to provide a complete picture of how SES shapes early-life health.

To address this gap, I examined multiple operationalizations of SES derived from two conceptualizations of SES. The distinct components conceptualization views individuals' economic, educational, and occupational circumstances as components of SES and is operationalized with readily available variables related to income, wealth, education, and occupation. However, studies use different operationalizations and combinations of the economic, educational, and occupational components. The unitary conceptualization views SES as an unobservable status of individuals that falls along a single, social hierarchy and is operationalized with a single component or a composite of components. However, researchers rely on different components and different methods to construct composites.

In analyses, I considered the effects of a broad range of operationalizations related to both the distinct components and unitary conceptualizations of SES on early-life physical and mental health. I also examined the effects of these operationalizations on child compared to adolescent health. I found that different operationalizations and combinations of components could lead to different conclusions about SES and health. I found that certain operationalizations of SES could lead to inconsistent conclusions regarding differences in the effects of SES on child compared to adolescent health. Overall, I found that the distinct components conceptualization of SES provided more detailed information on the economic, educational, and occupational contexts through which SES relates to early-life health. The different operationalizations of SES within this conceptualization provided important insights about SES and health. In sum, my findings suggest that researchers should explicitly conceptualize SES in studies and consider multiple operationalizations before arriving at conclusions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McLeod, Jane D., Pavalko, Eliza K.
Commitee: Alderson, Arthur S., Long, J. Scott
School: Indiana University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Public health, Public policy
Keywords: Adolescents, Children, Health, Health disparities, Measurement, Socioeconomic status
Publication Number: 3607026
ISBN: 9781303644030
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