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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding Links between Children's Health and Education

  • Author(s): Jackson, Margot I.
  • et al.

This paper has two goals. First, I evaluate the role of several mechanisms that may mediate the connection between children’s health and their educational attainment. Researchers have begun to pay more attention to the possibility that the relationship between health and socioeconomic status is bidirectional. While poor health has often been studied as a consequence of childhood and/or family socioeconomic conditions, it is also clear that illness and poor health during childhood have lasting socioeconomic effects. What is less clear is why poor health during childhood may influence educational outcomes in late childhood/young adulthood. Do children with a health disadvantage graduate from high school at lower rates, for example, because they are less school-ready than other children, or because they develop less productive social relationships and reduced expectations for their future? Secondly, I consider the extent to which health disparities among children account for racial disparities in children’s educational achievement. While childhood health disparities may contribute to socioeconomic disparities among the general population, they may also play a role in creating and maintaining the racial achievement gap that is so persistent in American society. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) 97 and Child and Young Adult files, I examine these questions. Understanding the role of childhood health in creating and maintaining educational disparities among older children and young adults, as well as the role of race in this process, will facilitate the development of effective intervention strategies.

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