Refining the association between education and health: the effects of quantity, credential, and selectivity

Demography. 1999 Nov;36(4):445-60.


We refine the established association between education and health by distinguishing three aspects of a person's education (quantity, credential, and selectivity) and by examining the mechanisms through which they may correlate with health. Data are from the 1995 Aging, Status, and the Sense of Control Survey, a representative U.S. national telephone survey of 2,593 respondents aged 18 to 95, with an oversample of elderly. Results show that physical functioning and perceived health increase significantly with years of formal education and with college selectivity for those with a bachelor's or higher degree, adjusting for age, sex, race, marital status, and parental education. The credential of a college degree has no net association with physical functioning and perceived health beyond the amount attributable to the additional years of schooling. Of the three aspects of education, years of schooling has the largest effect. Most of that association appears attributable to its correlation with work and economic conditions, social psychological resources, and health lifestyle. A large portion of the net association of college selectivity with physical functioning and perceived health appears attributable to health lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Education / classification
  • Education / standards*
  • Educational Status*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Educational*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology