Heterogeneity in the Health Impacts of Education in the UK

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Date and Time: 
Monday, March 21, 2016
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Patrick Turley
Harvard University, Harvard-MIT Broad Institution, and SSGAC

In 1972, the mandatory minimum age at which a student could drop out of school in England and Wales was raised from 15 to 16, constraining roughly 15 percent of the student population. We exploit this discontinuous increase in educational attainment to estimate the impact of education on body mass index (BMI) and diabetes approximately 40 years later. While previous literature found no significant effect of education on these outcomes, we find that an additional year of education reduces self-reported diabetes risk by 2 percentage points from a baseline of 5%. We are able to detect large effects on BMI in the upper quantiles of observed BMI, as large as 2 BMI points at the 90th percentile of BMI, from a baseline of 35.6. Using a genetic predictor of BMI, we also find that those with higher genetic risk of obesity see smaller reductions BMI 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.