University of Wisconsin–Madison

New Study to Examine Place of Birth, Health, and Mortality at Older Ages

Congratulations to Katherine Curtis (community and environmental sociology; Applied Population Lab), Michal Engelman (sociology), Jason Fletcher (public affairs; sociology), Alberto Palloni (sociology), and Malia Jones (Applied Population Lab; CDE) on receiving an R01 grant from the National Institute on Aging. Fletcher and Palloni will lead the project “The Importance of Place of Birth in Determining Health and Mortality at Older Ages,” which will examine the extent to which place of birth contributes to old age health inequalities by birth cohort, race/ethnicity, sex, and educational attainment in the US.

Existing literature explores geographic inequality in old age health using contemporaneously measured geographic place. Yet, the researchers argue, these studies misrepresent spatial health inequalities by ignoring critical early-life exposures and misattribute the importance of place during adulthood. Using newly available data on place of birth for over five million Americans born between the early and mid-twentieth century, the research team will take a life course approach to better understand the importance of place in explaining variation in health.

The project will provide new evidence of the magnitude and mechanisms linking place of birth to health and mortality over the life course. The use of novel data from multiple sources, including the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and the Health and Retirement Study, and the integration of demographic and econometric techniques will help uncover the enormous differences and disparities in old age health trajectories and experiences as they relate to place of birth.