Educational Attainment and Mortality in the United States: Effects of Degrees and Years of Schooling

Elizabeth Lawrence, University of Colorado at Boulder
Richard G. Rogers, University of Colorado at Boulder

Prior research has documented a strong and consistent mortality gradient—with more highly educated individuals living longer than those with less education—using years of education and degree attainment singly but not simultaneously. We use data from the mortality linked restricted-use files of the 1985 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) sample and Cox proportional hazards models to estimate mortality risks associated with years of education, degree attainment, and non-degree certification. In support of the screening hypothesis, results indicate that higher degrees and years of education are associated with reduced mortality risk in separate models, but when included simultaneously, degrees remain influential while years of education are no longer significant. Furthermore, among individuals who have earned a high school diploma, years of schooling and vocational school certification (or similar accreditation) are both associated with reduced risks of death. Degrees and years of education provide unique information that informs mortality risk.

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Presented in Session 225: Education, Health, and Mortality: Causality Issues