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Education, Knowledge and the Evolution of Disparities in Health

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  • Anna Aizer
  • Laura Stroud

Abstract

We study how advances in scientific knowledge affect the evolution of disparities in health. Our focus is the 1964 Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Health – the first widely publicized report of the negative effects of smoking on health. Using an historical dataset that includes the smoking habits of pregnant women 1959-1966, we find that immediately after the 1964 Report, more educated mothers immediately reduced their smoking as measured by both self-reports and serum cotinine levels, while the less educated did not, and that the relative health of their newborns likewise increased. We also find strong peer effects in the response to information: after the 1964 report, educated women surrounded by other educated women were more likely to reduce smoking relative to those surrounded by less educated women. Over time, the education gradient in both smoking and newborn health continued to increase, peaking in the 1980s and then shrinking, eventually returning to initial levels. These results can explain why in an era of great advancements in medical knowledge, health disparities may actually increase, at least initially.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15840.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15840

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Cited by:
  1. Daniela Iorio & Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis, 2011. "Education, HIV Status, and Risky Sexual Behavior: How Much Does the Stage of the HIV Epidemic Matter?," Working Papers 624, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  2. David Frisvold & Ezra Golberstein, 2013. "The Effect of School Quality on Black-White Health Differences: Evidence From Segregated Southern Schools," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(6), pages 1989-2012, December.
  3. Chatterji, P; & Joo, H; & Lahiri, K;, 2011. "Beware of Being Unaware: Racial Disparities in Chronic Illness in the US," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 11/11, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  4. Altindag, Duha & Cannonier, Colin & Mocan, Naci, 2011. "The impact of education on health knowledge," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 792-812, October.
  5. Eide, Eric R. & Showalter, Mark H., 2011. "Estimating the relation between health and education: What do we know and what do we need to know?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 778-791, October.
  6. Andrew Sharpe & Alexander Murray, 2011. "State of the Evidence on Health as a Determinant of Productivity," CSLS Research Reports 2011-04, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  7. Carbone, Jared C. & Kverndokk, Snorre, 2014. "Individual investments in education and health," HERO On line Working Paper Series 2014:1, Oslo University, Health Economics Research Programme.
  8. Donald S. Kenkel & Maximilian D. Schmeiser & Carly J. Urban, 2014. "Is Smoking Inferior? Evidence from Variation in the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 20097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Price, Joseph & Price, Joshua & Simon, Kosali, 2011. "Educational gaps in medical care and health behavior: Evidence from US Natality data," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 838-849, October.
  10. Pinka Chatterji & Heesoo Joo & Kajal Lahiri, 2010. "Beware of Unawareness: Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Awareness of Chronic Diseases," NBER Working Papers 16578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  12. Frisvold, David & Golberstein, Ezra, 2011. "School quality and the education–health relationship: Evidence from Blacks in segregated schools," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1232-1245.

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