Upward Health Mobility Limited for Minorities, Vulnerable Americans


Demographic groups that are less likely to experience upward health mobility include children in minority families, those without health insurance, those with low socioeconomic status.

Children whose parents are in poor health and also socioeconomically disadvantaged have limited upward health mobility, according to a study published in Health Affairs Monday afternoon.

Even for children whose parents are in better health, but also socioeconomically disadvantaged, downward health mobility is more likely, according to the study.

Demographic groups that are less likely to experience upward health mobility include children in minority families, those without health insurance, those with low socioeconomic status, accord to the report.

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Additionally, children who grow up in areas with “high proportions of uninsured residents” are less likely to experience upward mobility while also being more likely to experience downward health mobility.

The study’s authors point to the findings as an important insight into how children are afforded opportunities and how broader socioeconomic factors can affect their experiences in healthcare.

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Lead author Jason Fletcher, a professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, along with Katie Jajtner, a postdoctoral associate in the Center for Demography of Health and Aging at University of Wisconsin–Madison, analyzed child development through the lens of intergenerational mobility—”or the degree to which children’s outcomes diverge from or follow those of their parents.”

“Significant variation in health mobility exists in the United States, and this variation is evident by early childhood,” the researchers wrote. “We suggest that health mobility should be used as a metric of health equity and equality of opportunity. We provide an examination of its level and variability across demographic groups and locations in the U.S. for young children. The analysis adds a new lens to health disparities, present in both parents and children, and determines that more disadvantaged groups tend to experience less upward and more downward health mobility.”

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Fletcher and Jajtner also point to evidence from other studies that suggest a strong safety net could “mitigate health disparities” and urged lawmakers to pursue policies that may “decouple children’s outcomes from those of their parents.”

“We observe that children living in communities with low health insurance coverage have higher levels of downward health mobility and lower levels of upward health mobility for children, even when they are insured,” the researchers wrote. “With these mobility patterns now outlined, future research should examine links between health mobility and health policies such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansions, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Jack O’Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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