We assessed the impact of initial socioeconomic status and change in socioeconomic status across 10 years, ie, status trajectories, on the development of essential hypertension among black and white young men and women. Three thousand eight hundred twenty-seven normotensive individuals ages 18 to 30 years at study entry were followed for 10 years, with blood pressure, body mass index, and socioeconomic status characteristics measured at years 0, 2, 5, 7, and 10. Socioeconomic status trajectory measures were a new educational degree earned by year 10; difficulties paying for basics during years 2 to 10; and change in income category from year 5 to 10, defined in relation to year 0 status. Hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure ≥140, diastolic blood pressure ≥90, or antihypertensive medication use at year 10. Reporting difficulties paying for basics at study entry (odds ratio=1.45, 95% confidence interval, 1.05 to 2.02) and continued difficulties during year 2 to 10 follow-up (odds ratio=1.62, 95% confidence interval, 1.04 to 2.53) were independently associated with incident hypertension, adjusted for race-gender group, body mass index, site, age, and initial systolic blood pressure. Decline in income from year 5 to 10 tended to be associated with hypertension, P=0.07, but a new educational degree after study onset was not. Socioeconomic trajectories are independently associated with incidence of hypertension. A dynamic index of socioeconomic status may be a useful concept in understanding the effects of socioeconomic status on the natural history of hypertension.