NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

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

NBER Working Paper No. 11990
Issued in January 2006
NBER Program(s):   CH   HE

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 – 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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Published: 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.

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