Health, Race, and the Spatial Distribution of Opportunity in America
Robertson, Cassandra Lyn
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CitationRobertson, Cassandra Lyn. 2018. Health, Race, and the Spatial Distribution of Opportunity in America. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractWhat explains the spatial variation in intergenerational economic mobility across the United States? This dissertation will look to health and race to understand subnational variation in intergenerational economic mobility, and explore how public policy can increase upward mobility. I examine economic mobility not just as an individual level process but as a community level process, conditioned by both past history and current policy, that shapes individual outcomes.
Chapter 2, a co-authored version of which was published in Demography, investigates how population health in early life contributes to socioeconomic disparities in adulthood. Using Vital Statistics data, a population level dataset, and data from the Equality of Opportunity Project, we investigate the importance of birth weight for future economic outcomes. Low birthweight serves as both an indicator of parental disadvantages and a potential pathway for reproducing economic disadvantages in the next generation.
To further understand the relationship between health, race, and mobility, the next chapter investigates the impact of access to Medicaid at different ages on the test score gap between black and white children. Using test scores data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and an instrumental variable approach that isolates the policy effect of changes in Medicaid eligibility, I find that among students eligible for Medicaid, the positive effect of health insurance on test scores is statistically significant only among black students.
The final substantive chapter builds on my findings of racial differences in the impact of public policy by investigating whether economic mobility differs in majority white versus majority black counties. In this chapter, I first use both aggregate and individual data from the NLSY97 to establish that the distribution of mobility outcomes in majority black versus majority white counties is indeed quite different for individuals from apparently similar families. I then seek to explain this difference. I find that a significant part of the racial gap in mobility outcomes between majority black and majority white counties is more correlated with the weakness of local organized labor and the history of discrimination in a county, rather than more commonly cited sources of the gap, such as high levels of poverty and single parenthood. While we can isolate the correlates of economic mobility in majority white counties, it is far more difficult to identify correlates of upward mobility in majority black counties.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41127576
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