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The Roles of High School Completion and GED Receipt in Smoking and Obesity

  • Donald S. Kenkel
  • Dean R. Lillard
  • Alan D. Mathios

We analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to explore the relationships between high school completion and the two leading preventable causes of death %u2013 smoking and obesity. We focus on three issues that have received a great deal of attention in research on the pecuniary returns to schooling. First, we investigate whether GED recipients differ from other high school graduates in their smoking and obesity behaviors. Second, we explore the extent to which the relationships between schooling and these health-related behaviors are sensitive to controlling for family background measures and cognitive ability. Third, we estimate instrumental variables (IV) models of the impact of schooling on smoking and obesity. Although our IV estimates are imprecise, both the OLS and IV results tend to suggest that the returns to high school completion include a reduction in smoking. We find little evidence that high school completion is associated with a lower probability of being overweight or obese for either men or women. The results also suggest that the health returns to GED receipt are much smaller than the returns to high school completion.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11990.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Publication status: published as Kenkel, Donald, Dean Lillard and Alan Mathios. "The Roles Of High School Completion and GED Receipt In Smoking and Obesity," Journal of Labor Economics, 2006, v24(3,Jul), 635-660.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11990
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