The Causal Effects of Education on Adult Health, Mortality and Income: Evidence from Mendelian Randomization and the Raising of the School Leaving Age

48 Pages Posted: 21 May 2019

See all articles by Neil M. Davies

Neil M. Davies

University of Bristol

Matthew Dickson

University of Bristol - Leverhulme Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO)

George Davey Smith

University of Bristol - MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit; Social Medicine, University of Bristol

Frank Windmeijer

University of Bristol - Department of Economics; University of Bristol - Leverhulme Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO); Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice

Gerard J. van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Tinbergen Institute

Abstract

We compare estimates of the effects of education on health and health behaviour using two different instrumental variables in the UK Biobank data. One is based on a conventional natural experiment while the other, known as Mendelian randomization (MR), is based on genetic variants. The natural experiment exploits a compulsory schooling reform in the UK in 1972 which involved raising the minimum school leaving age (RoSLA). MR exploits perturbations of germline genetic variation associated with educational attainment, which occur at conception. It has been widely used in epidemiology and clinical sciences.Under monotonicity, each IV identifies a LATE, with potentially different sets of compliers. The RoSLA affected the amount of education for those at the lower end of the ability distribution whereas MR affects individuals across the entire distribution. We find that estimates using each approach are remarkably congruent for a wide range of health outcomes. Effect sizes of additional years of education thus seem to be similar across the education distribution. Our study corroborates the usefulness of MR as a source of instrumental variation in education.

Keywords: returns to education, health, instrumental variables, RoSLA, genomic confounding, LATE

JEL Classification: H52, I12, I21, I28

Suggested Citation

Davies, Neil M. and Dickson, Matthew and Davey Smith, George and Windmeijer, Frank and van den Berg, Gerard J., The Causal Effects of Education on Adult Health, Mortality and Income: Evidence from Mendelian Randomization and the Raising of the School Leaving Age. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12192. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3390179

Neil M. Davies (Contact Author)

University of Bristol ( email )

Matthew Dickson

University of Bristol - Leverhulme Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) ( email )

12 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TN
United Kingdom

George Davey Smith

University of Bristol - MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit ( email )

Bristol
United Kingdom

Social Medicine, University of Bristol ( email )

Bristol
United Kingdom

Frank Windmeijer

University of Bristol - Department of Economics ( email )

8 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 ITN
United Kingdom

University of Bristol - Leverhulme Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) ( email )

12 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TN
United Kingdom

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice

7 Ridgmount Street
London WC1E 7AE, WC1E 7 AE
United Kingdom

Gerard J. Van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands
+31 20 444 6132 (Phone)
+32 20 444 6020 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

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