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The Causal Effect of Education on Health: What is the Role of Health Behaviors?

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  • G. Brunello
  • M. Fort
  • N. Schneeweis
  • R. Winter-Ebmer

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the contribution of health related behaviors to the education gradient, using an empirical approach that addresses the endogeneity of both education and behaviors in the health production function. We apply this approach to a multi-country data set, which includes 12 European countries and has information on education, health and health behaviors for a sample of individuals aged 50+. Focusing on self reported poor health as our health outcome, we find that education has a protective role both for males and females. When evaluated at the sample mean of the dependent variable, one additional year of education reduces self-reported poor health by 7.1% for females and by 3.1% for males. Health behaviors - measured by smoking, drinking, exercising and the body mass index - contribute to explaining the gradient. We find that the effects of education on smoking, drinking, exercising and eating a proper diet account for at most 23% to 45% of the entire effect of education on health, depending on gender.

Suggested Citation

  • G. Brunello & M. Fort & N. Schneeweis & R. Winter-Ebmer, 2011. "The Causal Effect of Education on Health: What is the Role of Health Behaviors?," Working Papers wp788, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  • Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:wp788
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    Cited by:

    1. Johnston, David W. & Lordan, Grace & Shields, Michael A. & Suziedelyte, Agne, 2015. "Education and health knowledge: Evidence from UK compulsory schooling reform," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 92-100.
    2. Raquel Fonseca & Yuhui Zheng, 2013. "The Effect of Education on Health: Cross-Country Evidence," Cahiers de recherche 1325, CIRPEE.
    3. Janke, Katharina & Johnston, David W. & Propper, Carol & Shields, Michael A., 2018. "The Causal Effect of Education on Chronic Health Conditions," IZA Discussion Papers 11353, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. 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.
    5. Strulik, Holger, 2011. "Health and Education: Understanding the Gradient," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-487, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    6. Nicole Halmdienst & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2013. "Long-Run Effects of Childhood Shocks on Health in Late Adulthood: Evidence from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe," NRN working papers 2013-01, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    7. repec:iae:iaewps:wp2014n01 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. d׳Hombres, Béatrice & Nunziata, Luca, 2016. "Wish you were here? Quasi-experimental evidence on the effect of education on self-reported attitude toward immigrants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 201-224.
    9. Haining Wang & Zhiming Cheng & Russell Smyth, 2016. "Language, Health Outcomes and Health Inequality," Monash Economics Working Papers 43-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    10. Costa-Font, Joan & Hernández-Quevedo, Cristina & Jiménez-Rubio, Dolores, 2014. "Income inequalities in unhealthy life styles in England and Spain," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 13(C), pages 66-75.
    11. Strulik, Holger, 2016. "The return to education in terms of wealth and health," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 293, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    12. Leuven, Edwin & Plug, Erik & Rønning, Marte, 2016. "Education and cancer risk," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 106-121.
    13. Jared C. Carbone & Snorre Kverndokk, 2017. "Individual Investments in Education and Health: Policy Responses and Interactions," Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research,in: Human Capital and Health Behavior, volume 25, pages 33-83 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    14. repec:eee:socmed:v:188:y:2017:i:c:p:128-136 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Crespo, Laura & López-Noval, Borja & Mira, Pedro, 2014. "Compulsory schooling, education, depression and memory: New evidence from SHARELIFE," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 36-46.
    16. Tansel, Aysit & Karaoglan, Deniz, 2014. "Health behaviors and education in Turkey," MPRA Paper 57322, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Jul 2014.
    17. Nicole Schneeweis & Vegard Skirbekk & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2014. "Does Education Improve Cognitive Performance Four Decades After School Completion?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(2), pages 619-643, April.
    18. Isabel Correia Dias & Priscila Ferreira & Lígia Costa Pinto & Marieta Valente & Paula Veiga, 2017. "Growing old, unhealthy and unequal: an exploratory study on the health of Portuguese individuals aged 50+," NIMA Working Papers 67, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
    19. Pedro Albarran Pérez & Marisa Hidalgo Hidalgo & Iñigo Iturbe-Ormaetxe Kortajarene, 2017. "Schooling and adult health: Can education overcome bad early-life conditions?," Working Papers. Serie AD 2017-09, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    20. Brunello, Giorgio & Labartino, Giovanna, 2014. "Regional differences in overweight rates: The case of Italian regions," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 20-29.

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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