John Mirowsky

John Mirowsky
University of Texas at Austin | UT · Population Research Center

Doctor of Philosophy

About

125
Publications
46,325
Reads
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18,414
Citations
Citations since 2016
16 Research Items
6518 Citations
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201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,000
201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,000
201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,000
Additional affiliations
January 2015 - present
University of Texas at Austin
Position
  • Professor Emeritus

Publications

Publications (125)
Article
Full-text available
Cambridge Core - Sociology of Science and Medicine - A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health - edited by Teresa L. Scheid
Article
A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health - edited by Teresa L. Scheid June 2017
Chapter
PurposeDespite mixed evidence, researchers often suggest that married adults tend to live generally healthier lifestyles than their unmarried counterparts. In this chapter, we propose and test a reconceptualization of the health lifestyle that distinguishes between “homebody” risks and “hedonic” risks that may help to make sense of previous finding...
Chapter
In America, a chronic excess of calories eaten over calories burned forms the main dietary input to old-age cognitive decline. On the input side, food gets ever more abundant, palatable, and affordable. On the output side, human physical activity becomes ever more unnecessary, incidental, and obstructed. Sedentary work, transportation, and leisure...
Article
Subjective alienation is the sense of being separate from oneself or others. Perceived powerlessness is the main type of alienation because it is a separation from important outcomes in one's own life. Self-estrangement is a type of powerlessness related to one's work, and the closest conceptually to Marx's ideas of alienation. Others include socia...
Article
Education has a large and increasing impact on health in America. This paper examines one reason why. Education gives individuals the ability to override the default American lifestyle. The default lifestyle has three elements: displacing human energy with mechanical energy, displacing household food production with industrial food production, and...
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Adulthood trajectories of outcomes such as depression and the sense of control measure aspects of the human condition that Americans may view as objects of change. Social science should provide information on that progress, or its absence. Whether these trajectories change their shape, and how and why if they do, is important theoretically too. A r...
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The sense of personal control is the cognitive link between social structural conditions and emotional distress. The sense of personal control is the perception that one’s life is shaped by one’s own efforts and actions. Perceived control versus powerlessness is the cognitive imprint of structured inequality, disadvantage, and objective powerlessne...
Article
What explains the benefits of marriage to good health? Do cohabitors, gay or straight, receive similar benefits from their intimate relationships? Liu and her colleagues open with this statement: “Marriage is associated with good health. Yet same-sex cohabitors cannot marry in most states in the United States and therefore may not receive the healt...
Article
Scholars call for greater attention to social contexts that promote and deter risk factors for health. Parenthood transforms social contexts in a myriad of ways that may influence long-term patterns of weight gain. Life course features of parenthood such as age at first birth, parity, and living with a minor child may further influence weight gain....
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Western philosophical and scientific traditions often view human work as inherently onerous, wearisome, and degrading. Adam Smith, writing in the eighteenth century, saw work as the toil and trouble that is the real price humans pay for everything they need or want. Karl Marx, writing in the nineteenth century, considered wage labor alienating, but...
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Upward trends in IQ, education, and mental work suggest that cognitive function among seniors should be rising strongly across cohorts. There is little sign of such improvement in recent decades, and some analyses find poorer function in the newer cohorts. This essay explores possible explanations of the anomaly. Major long-term trends that might i...
Article
The association between education and good health is well established, but whether the strength of the association depends on other social statuses is not. We test a theory of resource substitution which predicts a larger correlation between education and health (measured for physical impairment) for people who grew up in families with poorly-educa...
Article
Does education improve health more for one sex than the other? We develop a theory of resource substitution which implies that education improves health more for women than men. Data from a 1995 survey of U.S. adults with follow-ups in 1998 and 2001 support the hypothesis. Physical impairment decreases more for women than for men as the level of ed...
Article
People with higher socioeconomic status have better health than lower-status individuals, and inequalities in health grow with age. Education creates most of the association between higher socioeconomic status and better health because education is a root cause of good health. A great deal of evidence suggests that educational attainment leads to b...
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Education reduces stress throughout life. Education leads to higher status, with fewer undesirable and uncontrollable events, fewer chronic strains, and more resources. Education also trains individuals for effective action. It teaches how to find and use information and how to communicate and negotiate with others. It encourages self-direction and...
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Full-text available
Living in a threatening, noxious, and dangerous neighborhood may produce anxiety, anger, and depression because it is subjectively alienating. We hypothesize that neighborhood disorder represents ambient threat that elicits perceptions of powerlessness, normlessness, mistrust, and isolation. These perceptions in turn lead to anxious and angry agita...
Article
This chapter addresses two sets of questions about anxiety and anger in adulthood. The first is about trajectories and trends: Do the frequency of anxiety and anger decline within cohorts as they age? Are persons in newer cohorts more anxious and angry? Do the adulthood trajectories and trends differ for men and women? The second set is about gende...
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With age, the quality of emotions may shift from negative in tone to positive, but also from active to passive. The shift from negative to positive is consistent with the age as maturity perspective. The shift from active to passive supports the age as decline perspective. If these generalities are correct, then they should apply to positive emotio...
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Does neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) have a significant positive effect on health over and above the personal and household socioeconomic status of the residents who live there, and, if it does, what is its relative importance compared to an individual's own SES? Resolution of this question has been impeded by lack of conceptual clarity in...
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The cumulative advantage hypothesis predicts that the adulthood rate of decline in health differs across levels of education in a manner that progres- sively enlarges the health gap across most or all of adulthood. The rising importance hypothesis predicts that the differences across levels of education in the rate of health's decline have been gro...
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Employees with greater control over their own activities have better health. People who are employed give up some control over their own activities for pay, yet employment is associated with better health. Perhaps paid jobs provide resources for productive self-expression that make up for the loss of autonomy. We find that paid employment is associ...
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Surveys often sample adults across a broad range of ages, measuring the same outcomes in several interviews spaced during a period of years and comparing the changes observed across segments of the adult life course. Put in sequence, those change vectors provide a composite image of the outcome's life course trajectory. To illustrate, the authors e...
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This study looks for evidence of an adulthood trajectory of perceived control over one's own life, and education's role in shaping it. Vectors from a 1995-2001 U. S. survey of adults imply a much steeper trajectory than did previous cross-sectional studies, peaking in late middle age rather than early adulthood. They also show a trend toward larger...
Article
Does education improve psychological well-being more for one sex than for the other? Resource substitution theory hypothesizes that education improves well-being more for women, because socioeconomic disadvantage makes them depend more on education to achieve well-being. Resource multiplication implies the opposite, that education improves well-bei...
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This paper examines the conditions under which normlessness leads to trouble with the law and the mechanisms through which social structure affects trouble with the law. Objective conditions of structural inconsistency, common in low socioeconomic positions, can lead to normlessness. The results presented here show that the association of normlessn...
Chapter
Some conditions rob people of control over their own lives. Joblessness, dependency, alienated labor, victimization, disadvantage, and disorder ingrain a sense of powerlessness and mistrust that demoralizes and distresses. The most destructive situations hide from people in them the fact that everyone has a choice. However threatening or constricti...
Article
Full-text available
Education’s positive effect on health gets larger as people age. The large socioeconomic differences in health among older Americans mostly accrue earlier in adulthood on gradients set by educational attainment. Education develops abilities that help individuals gain control of their own lives, encouraging and enabling a healthy life. The health-re...
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Full-text available
Education forms a unique dimension of social status with qualities that make it especially important to health. Educational attainment marks social status at the beginning of adulthood, functioning as the main bridge between the status of one generation and the next, and also as the main avenue of upward mobility. It precedes the other achieved soc...
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The biodevelopmental view sees the readiness and soundness of the organism at the time of first birth as its prime link to health and survival years and decades later. It suggests an optimum age at first birth shortly after puberty. The biosocial view emphasizes social correlates and consequences of age at first birth that may influence health and...
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This paper reviews survey research explaining the social patterns of distress. There are four basic patterns: (a) The higher one's social status the lower one's distress; (b) women are more distressed than men; (c) married persons are less distressed than unmarried persons, and; (d) the greater the number of undesirable events in one's life the gre...
Article
Do supportive personal relationships increase subjective life expectancy? The objective existence of family relationships and the subjective sense of having someone to call on in need may increase the length of life a person expects by creating assurance about the future, by reinforcing healthy habits, and by improving current health. Using the 199...
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Does life in the city foster mistrust of others? This study tests four connected hypotheses about urban mistrust by comparing the City of Chicago to suburbs, small cities, towns, and rural areas. The Urban Mistrust Hypothesis is that urban residents are more mistrusting than residents of places outside the city. The Neighborhood Disadvantage Hypoth...
Article
This study relates the health of U.S. adults ages 18 through 95 to parenthood and age at first birth, using data from a 1995 telephone survey. Health measures include perceived health, energy and fitness, physical impairment, chronic conditions, and aches and pains. Results show a generally positive association between health and age at first birth...
Article
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This paper argues a number of points about measurement in the sociology of mental health: (1) measurement is critical, (2) measures should represent and assess elements of human experience, taking measure of life as people feel it, sense it, and understand it, and (3) social scientists should create a human science, producing information for the pe...
Article
The theory of personal control predicts that women have a lower sense of control than men, but the evidence is equivocal. Inconsistencies in research results suggest that women's sense of control is lower than men's under some conditions, but not others. We hypothesize that the gender gap in perceived control is greater for older persons than for y...
Article
This study tests the hypothesis that the correlation between current depression and parenthood depends on the age at first birth for adults. An early first birth suggests a poor start in life. It may reflect a disordered transition from adolescence into adulthood and may itself disrupt that transition, with life long consequences that influence emo...
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We examine the question of whether living in a disadvantaged neighborhood damages health, over and above the impact of personal socioeconomic characteristics. We hypothesize that (1) health correlates negatively with neighborhood disadvantage adjusting for personal disadvantage, and that (2) neighborhood disorder mediates the association, (3) partl...
Article
A theory of trust is developed and tested. The theory posits that mistrust develops in neighborhoods where resources are scarce and threat is common, and among individuals with few resources and who feel powerless to avoid or manage the threat. Perceived neighborhood disorder, common in disadvantaged neighborhoods where disadvantaged individuals li...
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The amount of depression associated with economic hardship among adults may depend on age. This study tests alternative hypotheses about the interaction. The first asserts that the amount of depression associated with economic hardship decreases with older age because of maturity and experience. The second, the opposite, asserts that the amount inc...
Article
This study tests the hypothesis that American adults expect longer lives, the higher their achieved socioeconomic status. It maps the relationship in a 1995 national sample of 2,037 Americans ages 18 through 95. We find that each additional year of education increases the predicted subjective life expectancy by about .7 years. Adults currently in s...
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It might seem that following people over time provides the best indication of how people change with age, Sample attrition can undermine that assumption. This study describes the impact of health impairment, and depression on attrition in the Notional Survey of Families and Households. It analyzes the impact of that attrition on estimates of the ag...
Article
Both access to insurance and health itself vary widely by socioeconomic status (SES). Are socioeconomic variations in health linked to insurance coverage or to factors that lie outside the medical care arena? Data from the Aging, Status, and the Sense of Control Survey were the basis of a representative U.S. national telephone survey conducted in 1...
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Full-text available
We refine the established association between education and health by distinguishing three aspects of a person's education (quantity, credential, and selectivity) and by examining the mechanisms through which they may correlate with health. Data are from the 1995 Aging, Status, and the Sense of Control Survey, a representative U.S. national telepho...
Article
This study maps the relationship between subjective and actuarial life expectancy in a 1995 national sample of 2037 Americans of ages 18-95. Subjective estimates parallel age-specific actuarial ones based on current age-specific mortality rates. However males expect to live about 3 years longer than the actuarial estimate and blacks expect to live...
Article
We examine the association between adult depression and childhood parental divorce, and the explanations for this association, using a representative national sample of 2,592 adults interviewed by telephone in 1995. Parental divorce may disrupt the life course, with lifelong consequences for adult well-being in two ways: lowered socioeconomic statu...
Article
We test two hypotheses about the relationship between age and reported difficulty paying bills or buying things the family needs, such as food, clothing, medicine, and medical care. The affluence-trajectory hypothesis follows from age-group differences in income, income per capita, and official poverty, suggesting that economic hardship declines in...
Article
This study tests the hypothesis that the high sense of personal control enjoyed by adult Americans develops during the transition to adulthood. Analyses use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), which interviewed respondents in 1979 who were between the ages of 14 and 22 and again in 1992 when they were between 27 and 35. Cros...
Chapter
This chapter describes the two main quantitative strategies for explaining the association of mental or emotional well-being with various social and social psychological circumstances or characteristics, such as level of education, identity, or personal history. Statistically explaining an association means demonstrating the conditions under which...
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The authors develop and assess a scale of perceived neighborhood disorder. The scale of neighborhood disorder has high reliability, external validity, and shows interesting distinctions, and overlaps between physical and social disorder. It also shows that order and disorder are two ends of a single continuum.
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The concept of human capital implies that education improves health because it increases effective agency. We propose that education's positive effects extend beyond jobs and earnings. Through education, individuals gain the ability to be effective agents in their own lives. Education improves physical functioning and self-reported health because i...
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Full-text available
This article reports a test of the horizon hypothesis, which states that greater subjective life expectancy increases the sense of control over one's own life and in part accounts for the negative association between age and the sense of control. Results of a U.S. survey of 2,029 respondents aged 18 and older (934 aged 50 and older) support the hyp...
Article
Women average higher levels of depression than men. This paper tests the hypothesis that the gender gap in depression grows in adulthood as women and men enter and undergo their unequal adult statuses. The emerging gender stratification hypothesis has three parts: (1) The age increment hypothesis states that the difference in depression between wom...
Article
This paper analyzes the relationship between the sense of control over one's own life and the belief that most Americans control their lives and create their own good or bad outcomes. We analyze the effects of four aspects of stratification: an ascribed status (race), achieved statuses of differing stability (education and household income). and re...
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Fundamental analysis defines the basic terms of social and behavioral research. It usually follows the rule "one concept to a measure." However, some responses inherently reflect more than one underlying attribute, as when a test score reflects both knowledge of the subject and practice with taking tests. The standard methods of fundamental analysi...
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Perhaps women earn less than do men because they get other rewards. We examine interpersonal work rewards as potential alternatives to economic rewards. The theory of compensating differentials suggests that the subjective utility (measured as psychological well-being and personal control) of earnings is greater for men whereas that of interpersona...
Article
The effect of income on physical impairment steepens at lower levels of income. Why? Two national surveys show the following. Basic needs: the level of impairment and its rate of increase rise sharply as household income drops below the 20th percentile; above that level greater income has little effect; economic hardship explains much of the patter...
Article
Full-text available
Employment correlates positively with health, but is employment cause or consequence? The social causation hypothesis says that employment improves the health of men and women. The selection hypothesis says that healthy people get and keep jobs more than unhealthy people do. We test both hypotheses using longitudinal data from a national probabilit...
Article
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Women report greater distress than men, but do women genuinely experience greater distress, suggesting a heavier burden of hardship and constraint? Or do they merely report the feelings in standard indexes more frequently? Perhaps women discuss their emotions more freely. Or perhaps the indexes tap "feminine" emotions such as depression rather than...
Article
Two large random-sample surveys of adults age 18 and over show high, stable mean levels of perceived control in the age range 18 through 50, followed by successive steps down in progressively older age groups. Physical impairment and low education account for much of the low sense of control reported by older respondents. Education accounts for mor...
Chapter
The power of an index flows from its unity and simplicity. Researchers can choose to assess troublesome thoughts, moods, and behaviors using either indexes or diagnoses. Both forms of assessment represent syndromes, which are groups of signs and symptoms that collectively characterize a disorder; however, these forms embody two opposite views of pr...
Article
In this study, the relationship between age and depression is analyzed, looking for effects of maturity, decline, life-cycle stage, survival, and historical trend. The data are from a 1990 sample of 2,031 U.S. adults and a 1985 sample of 809 Illinois adults. The results show that depression reaches its lowest level in the middle aged, at about age...
Article
This paper investigates how the combination of job and household circumstances modifies the association between employment and the sense of control over one's life. Data are from a 1985 sample of 809 Illinois adults. The average sense of control is greater among people with paying jobs than among those without. The difference increases with greater...
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Defensiveness and a tendency to agree bias findings based on unbalanced measures of the sense of control. A comprehensive model shows the defense bias introduced by not balancing the number of statements about good and bad outcomes and the agreement bias introduced by not balancing the number of internal (instrumental) and external (fatalistic) sta...
Article
How does the family affect the health of its adult members? It is in the family that the macro-level social and economic order affects individual physical and emotional well-being. This review presents a general model of understanding family and health that describes patterns of well-being, and then asks, "what explains these patterns?" Explanation...
Article
According to the consolation-prize theory of alienation, low-status people feel less distressed by their situation when they reject responsibility for outcomes in their own lives. Recent evidence suggests this is false. Studies do not find that blaming chance, fate, or powerful others reduces the distress associated with low status. Failure to conf...
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Defense theory holds that defensive illusions guard well-being. People supposedly are least depressed if they claim responsibility for good outcomes and deny responsibility for bad ones. Control theory states that active, effective problem solving builds well-being; thus a sense of personal control and responsibility for both success and failure is...
Chapter
How do macrolevel social changes affect individual well-being and distress? Specifically, how do lags—situations in which one change lags behind another—affect individuals? Women’s labor force participation is changing much faster than the household division of labor. This means that many women are employed, yet solely responsible for the housework...
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Research on the social patterns of depression in the community finds consistently that high levels of education and income, being male, and being married are associated with lower levels of depression. We attempt to explain these patterns as the result of two essential social perceptions: the sense of controlling one's own life rather than being at...
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Throughout the 1980s, psychiatry has promoted diagnosis--with its language of categories--as the preeminent measure of psychological problems. In clinical psychiatry, the decade opened with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III (DSM-III). In psychiatric epidemiology, the decade saw the development of the D...
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The roles of mother and employee can be incompatible, producing role strain, or they can be integrated. The effect of a wife's employment status on psychological well-being depends on the presence of children, the type of child care available, the difficulty of arranging child care, and the husband's participation in child care. In a national proba...
Article
Holter (1971) argues that the belief in innate sex roles is a major ideological prop for an ascriptive, sex-based stratification system in which men are in the advantaged position. Because the members of an advantaged group are more likely to hold the beliefs that justify their position, husbands may believe in innate sex roles more than their wive...
Article
A national sample of married couples helps to untangle the complex relationship between levels of pay and the feeling of being underpaid. The data show that as income rises, people shift from comparisons based on the amount needed to "get along" to the amount needed to "get ahead," thereby producing a U-shaped relationship betweenn income levels an...

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