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The Long Reach of Education: Health, Wealth, and DI Participation


  • James M. Poterba
  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise


Education is strongly related to participation in the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program. To explore this relationship, we describe the correlation between education and DI participation, and then explore how four factors related to education – health, wealth, occupation, and employment – feature in this correlation. We label these four factors “pathway” variables. We find that a large component of the relationship between education and DI participation – more than one-third for men, and over two-thirds for women – can be attributed to the correlation of education with health, and of health with DI receipt. We use data from the Health and Retirement Study for the 1992-2012 period to explore the corresponding roles for each of the pathway variables, and also to study how changes over time in these variables, such as the widening gap between the health status of those with high and low educational attainment, have affected DI participation.

Suggested Citation

  • James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2017. "The Long Reach of Education: Health, Wealth, and DI Participation," NBER Working Papers 23307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23307
    Note: AG PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2015. "Understanding the Increase in Disability Insurance Benefit Receipt in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(2), pages 123-150, Spring.
    2. David M. Cutler & Wei Huang & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2016. "Economic Conditions and Mortality: Evidence from 200 Years of Data," NBER Working Papers 22690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education

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