What Are the Health Consequences of Upward Mobility?

This article was originally published here

Annu Rev Psychol. 2021 Sep 27. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-033020-122814. Online ahead of print.


Health disparities by socioeconomic status (SES) have been extensively documented, but less is known about the physical health implications of achieving upward mobility. This article critically reviews the evolving literature in this area, concluding that upward mobility is associated with a trade-off, whereby economic success and positive mental health in adulthood can come at the expense of physical health, a pattern termed skin-deep resilience. We consider explanations for this phenomenon, including prolonged high striving, competing demands between the environments upwardly mobile individuals seek to enter and their environments of origin, cultural mismatches between adaptive strategies from their childhood environments and those that are valued in higher-SES environments, and the sense of alienation, lack of belonging, and discrimination that upwardly mobile individuals face as they move into spaces set up by and for high-SES groups. These stressors are hypothesized to lead to unhealthy behaviors and a dysregulation of biological systems, with implications for cardiometabolic health. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 73 is January 2022. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.

PMID:34579546 | DOI:10.1146/annurev-psych-033020-122814