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The Effect of Education on Health: Cross-Country Evidence

  • Raquel Fonseca
  • Yuhui Zheng

This paper uses comparable micro-data from over 15 OECD countries to study the causal relationship between education and health outcomes. We combine three surveys (SHARE, HRS and ELSA) that include nationally representative samples of people aged 50 and over in these countries. We use variation in the timing of educational reforms across these countries as an instrument for the effect of education on health. Using instrumental variables Probit models (IV-Probit), we find causal evidence that more years of education lead to better health for a limited number of health markers. We find lower probabilities of reporting poor health, of having limitations in functional status (ADLs and iADLs) and of having been diagnosed with diabetes. These effects are larger than those from a Probit that does not control for the endogeneity of education. We cannot find evidence of a causal effect of education on other health conditions. Interestingly, the relationship between education and cancer is positive in both Probit and IV-Probit models, which we interpret as evidence that education fosters early detection.

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Paper provided by CIRPEE in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 1325.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:lvl:lacicr:1325
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  1. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2010. "Does Education Reduce the Risk of Hypertension? Estimating the Biomarker Effect of Compulsory Schooling in England," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(2), pages 173-202.
  2. Kemptner, Daniel & Jürges, Hendrik & Reinhold, Steffen, 2010. "Changes in Compulsory Schooling and the Causal Effect of Education on Health: Evidence from Germany," MEA discussion paper series 10200, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  3. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
  4. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 93-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Silles, Mary A., 2009. "The causal effect of education on health: Evidence from the United Kingdom," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 122-128, February.
  6. Eide, Eric R. & Showalter, Mark H., 2011. "Estimating the relation between health and education: What do we know and what do we need to know?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 778-791, October.
  7. David Card, 2000. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," NBER Working Papers 7769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. David M. Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 12352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Giorgio Brunello & Margherita Fort & Nicole Schneeweis & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012. "The Causal Effect of Education on Health: What is the Role of Health Behaviors?," ISER Discussion Paper 0836, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  10. Jusot, Florence & Kunst, Anton E. & Leinsalu, Mall & Menvielle, Gwenn & Schaap, Maartje M. & Roskam, Albert-Jan R. & Stirbu, Irina & Mackenbach, Johan P., 2008. "Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health in 22 European Countries," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10510, Paris Dauphine University.
  11. Hendrik Jürges, 2009. "The effect of compulsory schooling on health - evidence from biomarkers," MEA discussion paper series 09183, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  12. Scott Adams, 2002. "Educational Attainment and Health: Evidence from a Sample of Older Adults," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(1), pages 97-109.
  13. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2007. "The convergence process of compulsory schooling in Western Europe: 1950-2000," PSE Working Papers halshs-00588053, HAL.
  14. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the United States," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 189-221.
  15. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding Differences in Health Behaviors by Education," Scholarly Articles 5344195, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2008. "Does education improve health? A reexamination of the evidence from compulsory schooling laws," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 2-16.
  17. Damon Clark & Heather Royer, 2010. "The Effect of Education on Adult Health and Mortality: Evidence from Britain," NBER Working Papers 16013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Michael Grossman, 2005. "Education and Nonmarket Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Arendt, Jacob Nielsen, 2005. "Does education cause better health? A panel data analysis using school reforms for identification," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 149-160, April.
  20. 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.
  21. Philip Oreopoulos, 2006. "Estimating Average and Local Average Treatment Effects of Education when Compulsory Schooling Laws Really Matter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 152-175, March.
  22. Anirban Basu & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro-Lozano & Sergio Urzua, 2007. "Use of instrumental variables in the presence of heterogeneity and self-selection: an application to treatments of breast cancer patients," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(11), pages 1133-1157.
  23. Filer, Randall K. & Jurajda, Stepan & Planovsky, Jan, 1999. "Education and wages in the Czech and Slovak Republics during transition," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 581-593, November.
  24. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-355918 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Adams, Peter & Hurd, Michael D. & McFadden, Daniel & Merrill, Angela & Ribeiro, Tiago, 2003. "Healthy, wealthy, and wise? Tests for direct causal paths between health and socioeconomic status," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 3-56, January.
  26. Fletcher, Jason M. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2011. "Genetic lotteries within families," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 647-659, July.
  27. Albouy, Valerie & Lequien, Laurent, 2009. "Does compulsory education lower mortality?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 155-168, January.
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