NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Education and Health: Insights from International Comparisons

David M. Cutler, Adriana Lleras-Muney

NBER Working Paper No. 17738
Issued in January 2012
NBER Program(s):   AG   HC

In this review we synthesize what is known about the relationship between education and health. A large number of studies from both rich and poor countries show that education is associated with better health. While previous work has thought of the effect of education separately for rich and poor countries, we argue that there are insights to be gained by integrating the two. For example, education is associated with lower malnutrition in most countries, but in richer countries the educated have lower BMIs whereas in poor countries the educated have higher BMIs. This suggests that the behaviors associated with better health differ depending on the level of development. We illustrate this approach by comparing the effects of education on various health and health behaviors around the world, to generate hypotheses about why education is so often (but not always) predictive of health. Finally, we review the empirical evidence on the relationship between education and health, paying particular attention to causal evidence and evidence on mechanisms linking education to better health.

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