Understanding Health Disparities Across Education Groups

Dana Goldman, Darius Lakdawalla

NBER Working Paper No. 8328
Issued in June 2001
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

Better-educated people are healthier, but the magnitude of the relationship between health and education varies substantially across groups and over time. We undertake a theoretical and empirical study of how health disparities by education vary over time and across the population, according to underlying health characteristics and market forces. One surprising implication of the theory we develop is that health disparities actually increase as the price of health inputs falls. Therefore, government subsidies for health care research or even universal health insurance may worsen health inequality. Moreover, technological progress in health care will tend to raise inequality over time. The theory also implies that health disparities will be larger for sicker, older and more vulnerable groups. The first prediction is consistent with significant expansions in health disparities over the last thirty years in the US. The second is consistent with observed patterns in the National Health Interview Survey, the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, and the Framingham Heart Study. The returns to schooling are twice as high for the chronically ill and for those out of the labor force, and they tend to rise with age.

download in pdf format
   (278 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8328

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Glied and Lleras-Muney w9738 Health Inequality, Education and Medical Innovation
Cutler and Lleras-Muney w12352 Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence
Grossman The Correlation between Health and Schooling
Lleras-Muney and Lichtenberg w9185 The Effect of Education on Medical Technology Adoption: Are the More Educated More Likely to Use New Drugs
Aizer and Stroud w15840 Education, Knowledge and the Evolution of Disparities in Health
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us