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Sheepskin or Prozac: The Causal Effect of Education on Mental Health

  • Arnaud Chevalier

    (Department of Economics, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NP, England Associate at the Centre for Economics of Education, London School of Economics, Geary Institute, University College Dublin & Institute for the Study of Labour, IZA, Bonn)

  • Leon Feinstein

    (Institute of Education, Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAL, England Associate at the Centre for the Economics of Education, London School of Economics, England)

Mental illness is associated with large costs to individuals and society. Education improves various health outcomes but little work has been done on mental illness. To obtain unbiased estimates of the effect of education on mental health, we rely on a rich longitudinal dataset that contains health information from childhood to adulthood and thus allow us to control for fixed effects in mental health. We measure two health outcomes: malaise score and depression and estimate the extensive and intensive margins of education on mental health using various estimators. For all estimators, accounting for the endogeneity of education augments its protecting effect on mental health. We find that the effect of education is greater at mid-level of qualifications, for women and for individuals at greater risk of mental illness. The effects of education are observed at all ages, additionally education also reduces the transition to depression. These results suggest substantial returns to education in term of improved mental health.

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Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 200715.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: 08 Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:200715
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