NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Effect of Education on Health and Mortality: A Review of Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Evidence.

Titus J. Galama, Adriana Lleras-Muney, Hans van Kippersluis

NBER Working Paper No. 24225
Issued in January 2018, Revised in January 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Development Economics, Health Economics, Labor Studies

Education is strongly associated with better health and longer lives. However, the extent to which education causes health and longevity is widely debated. We develop a human capital framework to structure the interpretation of the empirical evidence. We then review evidence on the causal effects of education on mortality and its two most common preventable causes: smoking and obesity. We focus attention on evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials, twin studies, and quasi-experiments. There is no convincing evidence of an effect of education on obesity, and the effects on smoking are only apparent when schooling reforms affect individuals’ track or their peer group, but not when they simply increase the duration of schooling. An effect of education on mortality exists in some contexts but not in others, and seems to depend on (i) gender; (ii) the labor market returns to education; (iii) the quality of education; and (iv) whether education affects the quality of individuals’ peers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24225

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