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Estimating the relation between health and education: What do we know and what do we need to know?

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  • Eide, Eric R.
  • Showalter, Mark H.

Abstract

The empirical link between education and health is firmly established. Numerous studies document that higher levels of education are positively associated with longer life and better health throughout the lifespan. But measuring the causal links between education and health is a more challenging task. Aside from the typical econometric concerns about measurement error, functional form, and sampling properties, measuring the causal impact of education on health is confounded by the likely causal effect of health on education, and vice versa. Concerns about 'missing' variables that affect both the accumulation of human capital and the health capital - such as measures of individual discount rates - also make causality difficult to measure. Despite the difficulties, there has been a marked surge over the last decade in the number of empirical studies attempting to estimate the causal links between education and health. This survey reviews recent empirical evidence on the topic. Following the bifurcation in the literature, we split the survey into two pieces. First, we review the evidence of the effect of education on health. The vast majority of work in this area focuses on schooling up through college and its effect on adult health, including longevity. Second, we review the evidence of the effect of health on education, including health shocks in the womb and their effects on educational attainment. Rather than attempting a comprehensive review, our focus is to highlight relatively recent research.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:30:y:2011:i:5:p:778-791
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