At a Glance
Linked Lives: The Importance of the Family for Socioeconomic Attainment, Health, and Mortality
Mikko Myrskylä, Kieron Barclay, Pekka Martikainen
This research project explores how the attributes of one’s family members and demographic events that affect them influence a range of outcomes for the index person, such as educational and socioeconomic attainment, health, and mortality. The research literature on this broad topic covers questions such as on the impact of parental death on children's educational and occupational attainment, the influence of cousin order and cousin group size on educational outcomes, sibling similarity in education across and within societies, and the effects of marital status, fertility, and bereavement on adult mortality in polygamous and monogamous households.
Identifying causal effects in the context of the family is particularly challenging due to complex endogenous processes, genetic relatedness, and homophilous patterns of relationship formation, making it crucial to address these questions given that the family unit is one of the most salient group identities for humans. To examine how characteristics of family members and demographic events within the family affect outcomes for the index person, we use data from Nordic population data and the Utah Population Database.
Our analysis employs a range of statistical tools and research design strategies, including event-history analysis, within-family fixed effects regression, and antemortem socioeconomic trajectory-matching techniques to adjust for confounding factors that predict the timing of death, socioeconomic attainment, and health outcomes.
One key finding is that selection plays an important role in driving associations between deaths within the family and later outcomes for the index person, but there is also a direct causal effect. For example, we found that shared patterns of health deterioration explain part of the increase in the mortality of the surviving spouse after experiencing widowhood. Similarly, we discovered that socioeconomic variation in the association between the death of a parent and the educational and occupational attainment of the child(ren) disappears after matching for age, education, and crucially, the earnings trajectories of those who did or did not die.
Aging, Mortality and Longevity, Intergenerational Relationships
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 20:13, 1–25. (2023)
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-013. (2022)
Journal of Marriage and Family 84:1, 141–164. (2022)
Demography 58:3, 1011–1037. (2021)
Demography 57:6, 2169–2198. (2020)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117:37, 22793–22799. (2020)
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-010. (2019)
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-008. (2019)
American Journal of Epidemiology 188:1, 110–118. (2019)
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-007. (2019)
SSM-Population Health 4, 271–279. (2018)