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Early endowments, education, and health

Author

Listed:
  • Gabriella Conti

    (Harris School of Public Policy)

  • James J. Heckman

    (University of Chicago, Department of Economics)

  • Sergio Urzua

    (University of Maryland, Department of Economics)

Abstract

This paper examines the early origins of observed health disparities by education. We determine the role played by cognitive, noncognitive and early health endowments, and we identify the causal effect of education on health and health-related behaviors. We show that family background characteristics, cognitive, noncognitive and health endowments developed as early as age 10 are important determinants of health disparities at age 30. We also show that not properly accounting for personality traits overestimates the importance of cognitive ability in determining later health. We show that selection explains more than half of the observed difference in poor health, depression and obesity, while education has an important causal effect in explaining differences in smoking rates. We also uncover significant gender differences. We then go beyond the current literature which usually estimates mean effects to compute distributions of treatment effects. We show how the health returns to education can vary also among individuals who are similar in their observed characteristics, and how a mean effect can hide gains and losses for different individuals. This analysis highlights the crucial role played by the early years in promoting health and the importance of prevention in the reduction of health disparities, and refocuses the role of education policy as health policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriella Conti & James J. Heckman & Sergio Urzua, 2010. "Early endowments, education, and health," Working Papers 2011-001, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Donn Feir & M. Chris Auld, 2017. "The Effect of Indian Residential Schools on Height and Body Mass Post-1930," Department Discussion Papers 1703, Department of Economics, University of Victoria.
    3. Gabriella Conti & James J. Heckman, 2012. "The Economics of Child Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 18466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Govert e. Bijwaard & Hans Van Kippersluis, 2016. "Efficiency of Health Investment: Education or Intelligence?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(9), pages 1056-1072, September.
    5. Bas ter Weel & Tyas Prevoo, 2014. "The effect of family disruption on children's personality development: Evidence from British longitudinal data," CPB Discussion Paper 295, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    6. Bijwaard, Govert E. & van Kippersluis, Hans & Veenman, Justus, 2015. "Education and health: The role of cognitive ability," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 29-43.
    7. Bas ter Weel & Tyas Prevoo, 2014. "The effect of family disruption on children's personality development: Evidence from British longitudinal data," CPB Discussion Paper 295.rdf, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    8. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Prevoo, Tyas & ter Weel, Bas, 2014. "The Effect of Family Disruption on Children's Personality Development: Evidence from British Longitudinal Data," IZA Discussion Papers 8712, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Silvia H. Barcellos & Leandro S. Carvalho & Patrick Turley, 2019. "Distributional Effects of Education on Health," NBER Working Papers 25898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jiaming Soh & Kegon T. K. Tan, 2020. "The Nurture Effects of Multidimensional Parental Skills on College Attainment," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 1-42.
    12. Anirban Basu & Andrew M. Jones & Pedro Rosa Dias, 2014. "The Roles of Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills in Moderating the Effects of Mixed-Ability Schools on Long-Term Health," NBER Working Papers 20811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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