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Early endowments, education, and health

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  • Gabriella Conti

    ()
    (Harris School of Public Policy)

  • James J. Heckman

    ()
    (University of Chicago, Department of Economics)

  • Sergio Urzua

    (University of Maryland, Department of Economics)

Abstract

This paper examines the early origins of observed health disparities by education. We determine the role played by cognitive, noncognitive and early health endowments, and we identify the causal effect of education on health and health-related behaviors. We show that family background characteristics, cognitive, noncognitive and health endowments developed as early as age 10 are important determinants of health disparities at age 30. We also show that not properly accounting for personality traits overestimates the importance of cognitive ability in determining later health. We show that selection explains more than half of the observed difference in poor health, depression and obesity, while education has an important causal effect in explaining differences in smoking rates. We also uncover significant gender differences. We then go beyond the current literature which usually estimates mean effects to compute distributions of treatment effects. We show how the health returns to education can vary also among individuals who are similar in their observed characteristics, and how a mean effect can hide gains and losses for different individuals. This analysis highlights the crucial role played by the early years in promoting health and the importance of prevention in the reduction of health disparities, and refocuses the role of education policy as health policy.

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File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Conti_Heckman_Urzua_2010_earlyendowments.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group in its series Working Papers with number 2011-001.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-001

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  1. Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408 Elsevier.
  2. M. Christopher Auld & Nirmal Sidhu, 2005. "Schooling, cognitive ability and health," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(10), pages 1019-1034.
  3. Hartog, Joop & Oosterbeek, Hessel, 1998. "Health, wealth and happiness: why pursue a higher education?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 245-256, June.
  4. Robert Kaestner & Kevin Callison, 2011. "Adolescent Cognitive and Noncognitive Correlates of Adult Health," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(1), pages 29 - 69.
  5. Aakvik, Arild & Heckman, James J. & Vytlacil, Edward J., 2005. "Estimating treatment effects for discrete outcomes when responses to treatment vary: an application to Norwegian vocational rehabilitation programs," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 15-51.
  6. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, 05.
  7. Micklewright, John, 1989. "Choice at Sixteen," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 56(221), pages 25-39, February.
  8. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," NBER Working Papers 8344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Perri, Timothy J., 1984. "Health status and schooling decisions of young men," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 207-213, June.
  10. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1981. "Staying-on at School in England and Wales," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(192), pages 345-63, November.
  11. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
  12. Janet Currie, 2008. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," NBER Working Papers 13987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Victor R. Fuchs, 1980. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Working Papers 0539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  15. Wayne Velicer, 1976. "Determining the number of components from the matrix of partial correlations," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 321-327, September.
  16. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
  17. Robert A. Shakotko & Linda N. Edwards & Michael Grossman, 1980. "An Exploration of the Dynamic Relationship between Health and Cognitive Development in Adolescence," NBER Working Papers 0454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Heckman, James J & Honore, Bo E, 1990. "The Empirical Content of the Roy Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1121-49, September.
  19. Pedro Carneiro & Karsten T. Hansen & James J. Heckman, 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College," NBER Working Papers 9546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Gabriella Conti & James J. Heckman, 2012. "The Economics of Child Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 18466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Govert Bijwaard & Hans van Kippersluis & Justus Veenman, 2013. "Education and Health: The Role of Cognitive Ability," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-044/V, Tinbergen Institute.
  3. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.

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