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Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence

  • David M. Cutler
  • Adriana Lleras-Muney

There is a large and persistent association between education and health. In this paper, we review what is known about this link. We first document the facts about the relationship between education and health. The education %u2018gradient%u2019 is found for both health behaviors and health status, though the former does not fully explain the latter. The effect of education increases with increasing years of education, with no evidence of a sheepskin effect. Nor are there differences between blacks and whites, or men and women. Gradients in behavior are biggest at young ages, and decline after age 50 or 60. We then consider differing reasons why education might be related to health. The obvious economic explanations %u2013 education is related to income or occupational choice %u2013 explain only a part of the education effect. We suggest that increasing levels of education lead to different thinking and decision-making patterns. The monetary value of the return to education in terms of health is perhaps half of the return to education on earnings, so policies that impact educational attainment could have a large effect on population health.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12352.

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Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as House, J., R. Schoeni, G. Kaplan, and H. Pollack (eds.) Making Americans Healthier: Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12352
Note: ED HC AG
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