This study draws on past evidence of parental influence on children’s smoking and health lifestyles theory and examines how the association between parental and adult child smoking may be modified by the adult child’s socioeconomic attainment and mobility in the United States. Using data collected by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics in 1968, 1986, and 2011 and employing coarsened exact matching, I find that having a smoking parent as a child is associated with a 9 to 10 percentage increase in the probability of smoking as an adult in 1986 and 2011, respectively. However, the parental treatment effect is attenuated to 7 and 5 percentage point and no longer statistically significant in 2011, after accounting for the adult child’s own socioeconomic attainment. Children of 1968 parents interviewed in 1986 are more likely to reproduce their parents’ smoking behavior if they maintain their parents’ socioeconomic position or are downwardly mobile than if they are upwardly mobile. The largest effect of parents’ smoking is observed for the 1986 adult children who are intergenerationally downwardly mobile: (1) from the second-lowest to the lowest income tertile, (2) from college to less than college education, and (3) from skilled occupation to unskilled. For children of 1986 parents measured in 2011, the transmission pattern varies less by specific socioeconomic category, but adult children who are downwardly mobile with respect to parental education show a larger association of parental smoking with their own behavior than those who maintain their parents’ education or are upwardly mobile. The findings highlight the importance of jointly considering individual risk factors and social structural explanations for the persistence of health behavior disparities.
This event is part of the Sociology Seminar Series. Details to be confirmed.