Gender differences in education effects on all-cause mortality for white and black adults in the United States

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Aug;69(4):529-37. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.06.028. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


The existence of education differentials in adult mortality has been well established. The issue of gender differences in the education-mortality association, however, remains an open question, despite its importance for understanding of causal pathways through which education affects health outcomes. The goal of this paper is to analyze gender differences in education gradients in mortality among non-Hispanic white and black U.S. adults born between 1906 and 1965. The analysis is based on data from the 1986-2000 National Health Interview Surveys linked to the National Death Index through 2002 (NHIS-LMF) with over 700,000 respondents. Full-sample and cohort-stratified Cox proportional hazard models of all-cause mortality were estimated. Results indicate a great deal of similarity between men and women in the education-mortality association, with some exceptions. The most notable difference is the steeper educational gradient at high schooling levels for white men compared to white women. This difference was fully explained by marital status. No systematic gender differences in the relationship between education and adult mortality were observed among black adults in any birth cohorts. The findings suggest that men do not benefit from educational attainment uniformly more than women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / ethnology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*