The Rising Significance of Education for Health?

Brian Goesling, University of Michigan

This paper uses data from the National Health Interview Survey to track trends in self-reported health by education level in the United States over the past 20 years. Results corroborate the well-known finding that self-reported health is strongly associated with education level. In addition, new findings show that differences in health by education level have increased since the mid-1980s, especially among adults over age 50. Educational differences in health among younger adults have remained largely unchanged. These findings are disconcerting for policy-makers wishing to eliminate disparities in health between subgroups of the U.S. population, but are generally consistent with predictions of prior theory and research. They also bolster the claim now popular in the inequality literature that formal education is becoming an increasingly important stratifying force in contemporary American society.

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Presented in Session 172: Social Stratification and Inequality