Explaining the Rise in Educational Gradients in Mortality
The long-standing inverse relationship between education and mortality strengthened substantially later in the 20th century. This paper examines the reasons for this increase. We show that behavioral risk factors are not of primary importance. Smoking has declined more for the better educated, but not enough to explain the trend. Obesity has risen at similar rates across education groups, and control of blood pressure and cholesterol has increased fairly uniformly as well. Rather, our results show that the mortality returns to risk factors, and conditional on risk factors, the return to education, have grown over time.
The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute on Aging. Ted Joyce and seminar participants at the American Economics Meetings in San Francisco, at Dartmouth College, The Harvard University School of Public Health, and at the Yale School of Public Health provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this work. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Cutler, David M, Fabian Lange, Ellen Meara, Seth Richards-Shubik, and Christopher J Ruhme. 2011. Rising Educational Gradients in Mortality: The Role of Behavioral Factors. Journal of Health Economcis 30, no. 6: 1174-1187.