Which Came First—Better Education or Better Health?

Rubén Hernández-Murillo and Christopher J. Martinek of St Louis Fed summarise the literature on the issue.


Does better health lead to better education or vice-versa? This leads to policy design qs.

If more education can lead to better health, addressing the processes by which differences in education translate into differences in health can be useful to public policymakers. Identifying a causal relationship is of crucial importance in the design of policy. For example, if more education causes better health, then policies to increase education might also be effective at improving health in the population. However, if the association (often called correlation) between education and health exists because better health allows individuals to attain a better education (reverse causation) or because the correlation between education and health results from the correlation of education with other factors that also improve health (such as income of the parents), then education-improving policies might not be effective at improving health.

Interestingly, better education leads to better health outcomes as well.

The more you learn, the more you earn! This phrase has been used by education proponents to encourage young students to stay in school or pursue higher education. But higher lifetime earnings are not the only positive outcome from increased schooling. As it turns out, the more you learn, the more you live in good health. For example, in 2007, the age-adjusted mortality rate (measured in deaths per 100,000 people) among American males between 25 and 64 years was 665.2 for individuals without a high school diploma, 600.9 for individuals who completed high school and 238.9 for individuals with some college or higher.1 In terms of healthy behaviors, the estimated incidence of smoking among American males over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 10.4 percent, while this figure among males with a high school degree or less was about 30 percent.2 Similar differences exist for obesity and for alcohol use.3

The authors point to research which shows how more educated people tend to have better health. It is mainly because hey are more aware of the health outcomes and choices. Also high educated people tend to have more income leading to better health as well. Moreover,  parental socio-economic status (measured by income or education) has a strong relationship with childhood health as well which is pretty intuitive.

2 Responses to “Which Came First—Better Education or Better Health?”

  1. Sleep Better – 50 Tips To A Better Night's Sleep | SleepWell Says:

    […] Which Came First—Better Education or Better Health? « Mostly Economics […]

  2. Doofstommen-onderwijs / Education for the deaf-and-dumb | Interfreebies Says:

    […] Which Came First—Better Education or Better Health? « Mostly Economics […]

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