An Education Gradient in Health or a Health Gradient in Education? Education and Self-Rated Health from Age 15 to Age 31

Jamie L. Lynch, St. Norbert College
Paul von Hippel, University of Texas at Austin

There is a positive gradient relating educational attainment and health, yet the causal direction of the gradient is not clear. Does higher education improve health—an education gradient in health. Or do the healthy become highly educated—a health gradient in education? This study addresses the direction of the gradient by tracking changes in educational attainment and self-rated health (SRH) from age 15 to age 31 in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97). Ordinal logistic regression shows that high-SRH adolescents are more likely to become highly educated. Fixed-effects longitudinal regression shows that changes in educational attainment have little effect on SRH at age 31. While it is possible that educational attainment would have greater effect on health at older ages, at age 31 what we see is primarily a health gradient in education, not an education gradient in health.

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Presented in Session 66: Social Determinants of Health