Are the Health Returns to Education Changing? An Examination of Education and Self-Rated Health in 1972 and 2011

Rachel Donnelly, University of Texas at Austin

Substantial changes in educational attainment, income inequality by education, and health status of the US population signify the need to systematically assess changes in the strength of the education-health relationship over previous decades. I use data from two waves of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to examine the age-specific relationship between education and self-rated health among U.S. adults, comparing 1972 to 2011. I find that the relationship between education and self-rated health has strengthened from 1972 to 2011, particularly for adults with a college degree or 5+ years of secondary education compared to a high school diploma, specific to ten year age groups. Moreover, this relationship differs slightly for gender and race subgroups. The findings indicate the increasing importance of higher education for favorable health outcomes in the United States and support the need for a focus on educational health disparities.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality