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How did schooling laws improve long-term health and lower mortality?


  • Douglas Almond
  • Bhashkar Mazumder


Although it is well known that there is a strong association between education and health much less is known about how these factors are connected, and whether the relationship is causal. Lleras-Muney (2005) provides perhaps the strongest evidence that education has a causal effect on health. Using state compulsory school laws as instruments, Lleras-Muney finds large effects of education on mortality. We revisit these results, noting they are not robust to state time trends, even when the sample is vastly expanded and a coding error rectified. We employ a dataset containing a broad array of health outcomes and find that when using the same instruments, the pattern of effects for specific health conditions appears to depart markedly from prominent theories of how education should affect health. We also find suggestive evidence that vaccination against smallpox for school age children may account for some of the improvement in health and its association with education. This raises concerns about using compulsory schooling laws to identify the causal effects of education on health.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2006. "How did schooling laws improve long-term health and lower mortality?," Working Paper Series WP-06-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-06-23

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence Katz, 2003. "Mass Secondary Schooling and the State," NBER Working Papers 10075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Dana P. Goldman & James P. Smith, 2004. "Can Patient Self-Management Help Explain the SES Health Gradient?," HEW 0403004, EconWPA.
    3. Grossman, Michael, 2006. "Education and Nonmarket Outcomes," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    4. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
    5. Rivers, Douglas & Vuong, Quang H., 1988. "Limited information estimators and exogeneity tests for simultaneous probit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 347-366, November.
    6. Sherry Glied & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2003. "Health Inequality, Education and Medical Innovation," NBER Working Papers 9738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Koning & Dinand Webbink & Nicholas Martin, 2015. "The effect of education on smoking behavior: new evidence from smoking durations of a sample of twins," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 1479-1497, June.
    2. Anderberg, Dan & Chevalier, Arnaud & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "Anatomy of a health scare: Education, income and the MMR controversy in the UK," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 515-530, May.
    3. Frank Lichtenberg, 2009. "Response to Baker and Fugh-Berman's Critique of my Paper, "Why has Longevity Increased more in some States than in others?"," CESifo Working Paper Series 2712, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Jason Fletcher & David Frisvold, 2014. "The long run health returns to college quality," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 295-325, June.
    5. David Frisvold & Ezra Golberstein, 2013. "The Effect of School Quality on Black-White Health Differences: Evidence From Segregated Southern Schools," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 1989-2012, December.
    6. Frank Lichtenberg, 2011. "The quality of medical care, behavioral risk factors, and longevity growth," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 1-34, March.

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    Health education ; Education;

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