New evidence of the effects of education on health in the US: compulsory schooling laws revisited

Soc Sci Med. 2015 Feb;127:101-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.09.052. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Estimating the effects of education on health and mortality has been the subject of intense debate and competing findings and summaries. The original Lleras-Muney (2005) methods utilizing state compulsory schooling laws as instrumental variables for completed education and US data to establish effects of education on mortality have been extended to several countries, with mixed and often null findings. However, additional US studies have lagged behind due to small samples and/or lack of mortality information in many available datasets. This paper uses a large, novel survey from the AARP on several hundred thousand respondents to present new evidence of the effects of education on a variety of health outcomes. Results suggest that education may have a role in improving several dimensions of health, such as self reports, cardiovascular outcomes, and weight outcomes. Other results appear underpowered, suggesting that further use of this methodology may require even larger, and potentially unattainable, sample sizes in the US.

Keywords: Causality; Education; Health status; Instrumental variables; Mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Education / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • United States / epidemiology