Educational Attainment and Adult Health

Under What Conditions Is the Association Causal?

Published in: Social Science & Medicine, v. 127, Introduction, Feb. 2015, p. 1-7

Posted on RAND.org on March 10, 2015

by Jennifer Karas Montez, Esther M. Friedman

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This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

This article provides an introduction to a special issue of Social Science and Medicine that examines the relationship between educational attainment and adult health. The papers in this Special Issue offer an overview of a number of different methods, theoretical perspectives, and contexts in which to examine this relationship. Taken as a whole, they demonstrate that the existence, strength, and direction of the education-health association are highly dependent on context. They highlight that examining a snapshot of this association for a single time point, country, cohort, or health outcome provides only a glimpse of a much larger and dynamic phenomenon. Much like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, generalizing based on this glimpse runs the risk of misinterpreting the larger phenomenon. The papers in this Special Issue begin to provide the contours of that larger picture. The balance of evidence from these papers points to a causal effect of schooling on health across a diverse set of contexts and a wide range of health outcomes; however, they also highlight that those contexts can significantly suppress or accentuate any such causal effect.

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