Live and Learn: Does Education Lead to Longer Lives?

Eamon Molloy, Cornell University

A large literature establishes a positive and economically meaningful correlation between mortality and education. However, few previous studies have explored whether the relationship is causal. We use variation in compulsory schooling laws over 100 years across 50 states as instruments to predict educational attainment. We improve on the previous literature by using these unique and comprehensive data that encompass the complete history of compulsory schooling laws. We match these laws to respondents to the PSID. We also contribute a new algorithm that allows us to identify places of residence in every year of life. Using individual-level mortality data we find that our more accurate measure of the number of years of compulsory education is a strong (F=15.44) instrument for education. Our estimates suggest that an additional year of compulsory schooling reduces one's probability of death in the next five years by 2-3%.

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Presented in Session 2: Aging and Inequality: Disparities in Health, Wealth and Well-Being