How Much Life Does a Good Education Buy?

Mark D. Hayward, University of Texas at Austin
Mira M. Hidajat, Pennsylvania State University
Dustin Brown, University of Texas at Austin

Despite an enormous literature documenting education's association with mortality, information showing education's consequences for a population's mortality over a lifetime is sparse. Here, we use a lifetable modeling approach in evaluating this association. Based on the HRS (1992-2004), a good education buys 4.5 years of life for men and women aged 50 -- the gap separating those with 0-11 and 13+ years of education. The biggest benefit in men’s life expectancy stems from attending college. For women, the benefit comes from attaining a high school education. While we observed diminishing effects of education at advanced ages, it is a mistake to focus on the convergence of death rates. Differential survival by education denotes the lifetime benefits of education and is stark for men and women. Thus, while a good education might not buy a lot of life at age 90, it drastically increases the chances of surviving to that age.

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Presented in Session 69: Socio-Economic Status and Adult Health/Mortality