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Schooling and Health: The Cigarette Connection

  • Phillip Farrell
  • Victor R. Fuchs

Numerous studies by economists during the past decade have revealed a large, statistically significant correlation between health and years of schooling after controlling for differences in income and other variables. Cigarette smoking is a likely intervening variable because of the strong effect of smoking on morbidity and mortality, and because there is a strong negative correlation between smoking and years of schooling -- at least at high school levels and above. This paper tests the hypothesis that schooling causes differences in smoking behavior. We use retrospective smoking histories of 1,183 white, non-Hispanic men and women who had completed 12 to 18 years of schooling. The data were collected in 1979 by the Stanford University Heart Disease Prevention Program from randomly selected households in four small California cities. The most striking result is that the negative relation between schooling and smoking observed at age 24 is accounted for by differences in smoking behavior present at age 17, when all subjects were still in approximately the same grade. We conclude that additional years of schooling cannot be the cause of differential smoking behavior; one or more "third variables" must cause changes in both smoking and schooling. Analysis of smoking by cohort reveals that the schooling-smoking correlation developed only after the health consequences of smoking became widely known; it has remained strong even in the most recent cohorts. This implies that the mechanism behind the schooling-smoking correlation may also give rise to the schooling-health correlation.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w0768.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0768.

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Date of creation: Sep 1981
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Publication status: published as Farrell, Phillip and Victor R. Fuchs. "Schooling and Health: The Cigarette Connection." Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 1, No. 3 (December 1982) pp. 217-230.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0768
Note: HE
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  1. Joseph P. Newhouse & Lindy J. Friedlander, 1980. "The Relationship between Medical Resources and Measures of Health: Some Additional Evidence," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(2), pages 200-218.
  2. Richard Auster & Irving Leveson & Deborah Sarachek, 1969. "The Production of Health, an Exploratory Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 4(4), pages 411-436.
  3. 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.
  4. Paul Taubman & Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Healthiness, Education, and Marital Status," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 121-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
  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.
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