Heterogeneous Effects of Education on Health

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Date and Time: 
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Education and health have been shown to be strongly associated in many periods and countries and for a wide range of health measures. Nevertheless, the role of education as a determinant of health is still debated. In this paper we explore the hypothesis that education has heterogeneous effects on health, affecting individuals from different health and genetic backgrounds differently. We investigate the effect of education on numerous physical dimensions of health such as anthropometrics, blood pressure, spirometry and grip strength. To overcome the endogeneity of educational choices we exploit a natural experiment, England’s Raising of School Leaving Age Order of 1972 (ROSLA) which increased the minimum school-leaving age from 15 to 16 years. We find that the increase in educational attainment caused by the ROSLA affected several physical measures of health 40 years later, when the affected cohort was approximately 55 years old. Importantly, there is substantial heterogeneity in the estimated effects. For example, the 90th percentile of the BMI distribution decreased by 2 BMI points (from a baseline of 35.6), while we see no significant reductions below the 60th percentile. Similarly, our preliminary genetic analysis show that those with higher genetic risk of obesity see smaller BMI reductions as a result of the increase in compulsory schooling while large reductions are seen in those with low genetic risk. Taken together our results point to the importance of considering heterogeneity when estimating the impacts of education on health.