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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.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-06-23.

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Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-06-23
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  1. 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.
  2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence Katz, 2003. "Mass Secondary Schooling and the State," NBER Working Papers 10075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Dana P. Goldman & James P. Smith, 2004. "Can Patient Self-Management Help Explain the SES Health Gradient?," HEW 0403004, EconWPA.
  4. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  5. Michael Grossman, 2005. "Education and Nonmarket Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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 223-55, March-Apr.
  7. Sherry Glied & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2003. "Health Inequality, Education and Medical Innovation," NBER Working Papers 9738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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