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Selection along the pathways to adult health disparities

Associations between child health and adult socioeconomic status are often interpreted as evidence of the early origins of adult inequalities. To the extent that early health influences later life health and/or pathways to socioeconomic attainment, it may also account for an important share of the well known correspondence between socioeconomic status and good health in adulthood. I present a model of life course development that links early health to adult socioeconomic status and health via a set of cognitive and socioemotional pathways which have been widely linked to educational attainment. The framework is implemented using a birth cohort followed into middle adulthood and demonstrates the sizable adverse effects of early health along the pathways to adult attainment. However, these effects do not constitute any sizable contribution of early health to adult health disparities. I use a method of counterfactual analysis through simulation to show that the aggregate effects of low birth weight and child chronic con- ditions contribute only a modest share to the adult socioeconomic gradient in self-reported health.