Racial Differences in the Influence of Socioeconomic Resources on Depressive Symptomatology across the Early Life Course.
Prior scholarship documents that having more socioeconomic resources is associated with better mental health. Yet, accumulating work shows that Black Americans do not consistently receive the same mental health returns to greater socioeconomic resources as White Americans. Using structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques, I analyze a sample of Black and White young adults from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). I investigate how access to various socioeconomic resources across stages of early life influence depression trajectories among US young adults from adolescence to early midlife. I also test when in the early life course, and how, these processes vary across racial groups. Findings demonstrate an association between adolescent socioeconomic disadvantage and increased depressive symptomatology across the transition to adulthood, young adulthood, and early midlife. Increased educational attainment in the transition to adulthood is also associated with fewer depressive symptoms in young adulthood and early midlife. Moreover, low income in young adulthood is associated with increased depressive symptomatology in early midlife. Importantly, racial differences in the types of socioeconomic resources, and duration of influence of socioeconomic resources, that are associated with depression across stages of early life are also present. These findings advance understanding of the underlying socioeconomic life course mechanisms that generate the racial inequalities in mental health observed among U.S. adults.