Education’s unequal benefits? Conditional effects of college degrees on health behaviors


Lawrence, Elizabeth (2014). Education’s unequal benefits? Conditional effects of college degrees on health behaviors. 2014 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Among U.S. adults, college degree earners live much healthier lives than those with less education, but we know little about why. This study seeks to determine heterogeneity in the causal effects of college degrees on multiple health behavior outcomes, including smoking, exercising, maintenance of healthy weight status, and heavy drinking. Identifying whether college degrees have greater benefits among those who are least or most likely to attain these degrees will indicate whether education serves to equalize or reproduce inequality. The restricted-use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) are uniquely positioned to test these competing hypotheses, as they offer longitudinal information on the educational experiences and health behaviors of individuals across adolescence to adulthood. Heterogeneous treatment effect models using propensity score matching to estimate causality will determine how college degree-health behavior associations differ across anindividual's likelihood of attaining a college degree. Dependent variables include Wave IV health behavior measures. Key independent variables are a Wave IV indicator of whether an individual earned a college degree and a Wave I measure of the likelihood of college degree attainment created from an array of individual, family, and school characteristics. I expect to find that those least likely to attain a college degree receive greater benefits than those most likely.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2014 Add Health Users Conference


Lawrence, Elizabeth

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID