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The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the U. S

Adriana Lleras-Muney

No 272, Working Papers from Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing.

Abstract: Prior research has uncovered a large and positive correlation between educa- tion and health, but there are difficulties in determining whether this relation- ship is causal. In this paper I reexamine whether education has a causal impact on health. I follow synthetic cohorts using successive U.S. censuses to estimate the impact of educational attainment on mortality rates. I then use compulsory education laws from 1915 to 1939 as instruments to obtain a consistent causal estimate of this effect. While least squares estimates suggest that an additional year of education lowers the probability of dying in the next 10 years by ap- proximately 1.3 percentage points, results from the IV estimation show that the effect is in fact much larger, at least 3.6 percentage points. Overall, one more year of education increases life expectancy at age 35 by 1.2 years. These results provide evidence of a causal effect from education to health and suggest that the income returns to education substantially underestimate the overall returns to education.

JEL-codes: I12 I20 J10 J18 N32 N42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2001-05
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