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Educational expansion and the education gradient in health: A hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis

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  • Delaruelle, Katrijn
  • Buffel, Veerle
  • Bracke, Piet

Abstract

Researchers have recently been investigating the temporal variation in the educational gradient in health. While there is abundant literature concerning age trajectories, theoretical knowledge about cohort differences is relatively limited. Therefore, in analogy with the life course perspective, we introduce two contrasting cohort-specific hypotheses. The diminishing health returns hypothesis predicts a decrease in educational disparities in health across cohorts. By contrast, the cohort accretion hypothesis suggests that the education-health gap will be more pronounced among younger cohorts. To shed light on this, we perform a hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis (HAPC), using data from a subsample of individuals between 25 and 85 years of age (N = 232,573) from 32 countries in the European Social Survey (six waves: 2002–2012). The analysis leads to three important conclusions. First, we observe a widening health gap between different educational levels over the life course. Second, we find that these educational differences in the age trajectories of health seem to strengthen with each successive birth cohort. However, the two age-related effects disappear when we control for employment status, household income, and family characteristics. Last, when adjusting for these mediators, we reveal evidence to support the diminishing health returns hypothesis, implying that it is primarily the direct association between education and health that decreases across cohorts. This finding raises concerns about potential barriers to education being a vehicle for empowerment and the promotion of health.

Suggested Citation

  • Delaruelle, Katrijn & Buffel, Veerle & Bracke, Piet, 2015. "Educational expansion and the education gradient in health: A hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 79-88.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:145:y:2015:i:c:p:79-88
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.09.040
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    1. repec:spr:demogr:v:55:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s13524-018-0674-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:socmed:v:212:y:2018:i:c:p:168-178 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:183:y:2017:i:c:p:56-61 is not listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Education; Health; HAPC models; Credentialism;

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