Personality, Education, and Health-Related Outcomes

Kegon Tan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Peter Savelyev, Vanderbilt University

We estimate effects of five childhood personality skills and higher education on determinants of longevity. The latent personality skills are closely related to the Big Five taxonomy (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism). We employ the Terman panel data of high ability individuals (1922-1991). Over the life-cycle we observe mortality, health behaviors, lifestyles, and earnings. We uncover possible mechanisms behind strong treatment effects of personality and college education on longevity documented in Savelyev (2013). We account for measurement error in the proxies of personality skills via factor-analytic methods, and control for multiple-hypotheses testing following Romano and Wolf (2005). We find strong effects of personality skills and education on health and health-related outcomes. They differ by gender and outcome, demonstrating substantial heterogeneity in the role of multiple human skills in generating health. While all five personality skills matter for health outcomes, perhaps the most important skills are Conscientiousness and Neuroticism.

  See paper

Presented in Session 54: Causal Approaches to Health and Health Behaviors