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The Impact of Education on Health Using Compulsory Schooling Laws

50 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2009 Last revised: 22 Nov 2009

Michael Grabner

HealthCore, Inc.

Date Written: April 1, 2009


Educational attainment is strongly associated with better health outcomes. It is less clear whether this reflects a direct causal effect of schooling on health, reverse causality, or the influence of other, unobserved variables. In the past few years researchers have increasingly relied upon natural experiments to examine this question. This paper uses variations in state-specific compulsory schooling laws in the U.S. as instruments for education. I examine a wide variety of outcomes related to lifestyle diseases and general health status. These variables, together with detailed information on schooling and other demographics, were taken from the first two waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). While associations between schooling and health outcomes are found to be very strong in this sample, the instrumental variable results are inconclusive due to large standard errors in the presence of weak instruments. Using estimators and tests that are robust to weak instruments yields similar results.

Keywords: Compulsory school law, Health, Education, NHANES, Weak instrument

JEL Classification: I10, I12, I20, C01

Suggested Citation

Grabner, Michael, The Impact of Education on Health Using Compulsory Schooling Laws (April 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Grabner (Contact Author)

HealthCore, Inc. ( email )

800 Delaware Avenue
Fifth Floor
Wilmington, DE 19801
United States

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