Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 501–525 | Cite as

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

  • Elizabeth M. Lawrence
  • Richard G. Rogers
  • Anna Zajacova
Article

Abstract

Researchers have extensively documented a strong and consistent education gradient for mortality, with more highly educated individuals living longer than those with less education. This study contributes to our understanding of the education–mortality relationship by determining the effects of years of education and degree attainment on mortality, and by including non-degree certification, an important but understudied dimension of educational attainment. We use data from the mortality-linked restricted-use files of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) sample (N = 9821) and Cox proportional hazards models to estimate mortality risk among U.S. adults. Results indicate that more advanced degrees and additional years of education are associated with reduced mortality risk in separate models, but when included simultaneously, only degrees remain influential. Among individuals who have earned a high school diploma only, additional years of schooling (beyond 12) and vocational school certification (or similar accreditation) are both independently associated with reduced risks of death. Degrees appear to be most important for increasing longevity; the findings also suggest that any educational experience can be beneficial. Future research in health and mortality should consider including educational measures beyond a single variable for educational attainment.

Keywords

Mortality Education Degrees Certification PSID United States 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth M. Lawrence
    • 1
  • Richard G. Rogers
    • 2
  • Anna Zajacova
    • 3
  1. 1.Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Population ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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