Anomaly in the Education-Health Gradient: The Health Penalty for College Noncompleters

Anna Zajacova, University of Wyoming
Vicki Johnson-Lawrence, University of Michigan

A recent study has found an anomaly in the health gradient: college noncompleters report more health problems than adults with high school (HS) diploma. The aim of this project is to test whether this finding holds when we eliminate potential reporting differences by examining biomarker levels in the subbaccalaureate group. Using the restricted 1999-2012 NHANES, we estimate models of biomarkers for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as a function of a HS diploma, bachelor’s degree (BA), and three subbaccalaureate levels: “some college,” vocational associate degree (AA), and academic AA. Results indicate that the anomalous findings are real rather than due to reporting differences: those with “some college” or vocational AA have no systematic advantage over HS graduates in most biomarkers. In contrast, academic AA is linked to better risk profile. The findings emphasize the need to understand this anomalous health pattern that concerns 28% of American adults in this educational-attainment group.

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Presented in Session 130: Cumulative Disadvantage and Health: Changes over Time?