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Health and Trauma

Our mental and physical well-being, and of those around us, can have a major impact on lifetime earnings and life expectancy.

The odds of upward mobility are intertwined with other challenges that children experience throughout their lives. High-levels of neighborhood violence, for example, can lead to traumatization that lasts into adulthood, and, if unaddressed, can significantly impact the likelihood of completing high school, accessing a well paying job, or living in poverty. Mental and physical health are important conditions to understand in relation to upward socioeconomic mobility.

  • Research on exposure to community-level violence, measured as proximity to officer-involved shootings, found that students who were exposed to these events were less likely to graduate high school, had lower GPAs, and were more likely to impact students of color. These impacts are especially pronounced for younger students who also experience longer-term negative effects of these events.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are attributed to higher rates of anxiety and depression in adults across North America (Bellis et al 2019), as well as increased chances of cardiovascular disease and other health related issues. These effects are more likely in those who experience a larger number of ACE events in their childhood.
  • ACE exposure suggests a higher risk of not completing high school, adult unemployment, and poverty. A person exposed to three ACEs are about 1.5 times more likely to not graduate high school than a person with no ACE exposure. (Metzler et al 2017, Zielinski 2009)

  • A meta-analysis of research on the connection between ACEs and socioeconomic status shows the importance, across many studies, of socioeconomic status as both a predictor of ACE exposure and contributing to the cyclical nature of ACE exposure and poverty. (Walsh et al 2019)
  • Air pollution, often concentrated in communities of color, has long-last implications for an individuals health and well-being, while also posing great risks for prenatal and early childhood development that impact educational outcomes later in life.

Want to learn more?

Academic Pediatrics 2017, Child Well-Being and Adverse Childhood Experiences in the US

Ang 2021, The Effects of Police Violence on Inner-City Students

Bellis et al 2019, Life course health consequences and associated annual costs of adverse childhood experiences across Europe and North America: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Bethell et al 2017, Prioritizing Possibilities for Child and Family Health: An Agenda to Address Adverse Childhood Experiences and Foster the Social and Emotional Roots of Well-being in Pediatrics

Braveman and Gottlieb 2014, The Social Determinants of Health: It's Time to Consider the Causes of the Causes

Cabral et al 2020, Trauma at School: The Impacts of Shootings on Students' Human Capital and Economic Outcomes

Felitti et al 1998, Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults

Hughes et al 2017, The effect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Merrick et al 2019, Vital Signs: Estimated Proportion of Adult Health Problems Attributable to Adverse Childhood Experiences and Implications for Prevention — 25 States, 2015–2017

Metzler et al 2017, Adverse childhood experiences and life opportunities: Shifting the narrative

Sandstrom and Huerta 2013, The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis

Slaughter-Acey et al 2016, Movin' on Up: Socioeconomic Mobility and the Risk of Delivering a Small-for-Gestational Age Infant

Walsh et al 2019, Relationship between childhood socioeconomic position and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): a systematic review

Zielinski 2009, Child maltreatment and adult socioeconomic well-being

Next topic

Income Inequality

The decline of the middle class has had profound impacts on the chances for upward mobility across all groups. Learn how income inequality inhibits upward mobility.

Learn more