Understanding differences in health behaviors by education

J Health Econ. 2010 Jan;29(1):1-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2009.10.003. Epub 2009 Oct 31.


Using a variety of data sets from two countries, we examine possible explanations for the relationship between education and health behaviors, known as the education gradient. We show that income, health insurance, and family background can account for about 30 percent of the gradient. Knowledge and measures of cognitive ability explain an additional 30 percent. Social networks account for another 10 percent. Our proxies for discounting, risk aversion, or the value of future do not account for any of the education gradient, and neither do personality factors such as a sense of control of oneself or over one's life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • United States