Parallel latent trajectories of mental health and personal earnings among 16- to 20 year-old US labor force participants: a 20-year longitudinal study
Purpose: Determine the number of latent parallel trajectories of mental health and employment earnings over two decades among American youth entering the workforce and estimate the association between baseline sociodemographic and health factors on latent trajectory class membership. Methods: This study used data of 8173 participants from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 who were 13-17 years old in 1997. Surveys occurred annually until 2011 then biennially until 2017, when participants were 33-37 years old. The Mental Health Inventory-5 measured mental health at eight survey cycles between 2000 and 2017. Employment earnings were measured annually between 1998 and 2017. Latent parallel trajectories were estimated using latent growth modeling. Multinomial logistic regression explored the association between baseline factors and trajectory membership. Results: Four parallel latent classes were identified; all showed stable mental health and increasing earnings. Three percent of the sample showed a good mental health, steep increasing earnings trajectory (average 2017 earnings ~ $196,000); 23% followed a good mental health, medium increasing earnings trajectory (average 2017 earnings ~ $78,100); 50% followed a good mental health, low increasing earnings trajectory (average 2017 earnings ~ $39,500); and 24% followed a poor mental, lowest increasing earnings trajectory (average 2017 earnings ~ $32,000). Participants who were younger, women, Black or Hispanic, from lower socioeconomic households, and reported poorer health behaviors had higher odds of belonging to the poor mental health, low earnings class. Conclusion: Findings highlight the parallel courses of mental health and labor market earnings, and the influence of gender, race/ethnicity, and adolescent circumstances on these processes.