Hard Lessons: The Impact of Secondary Education on COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the U.S.

21 Pages Posted: 4 May 2021

See all articles by Jamie Benson

Jamie Benson

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine

Stas Amato

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine

Turner Osler

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine

David Hosmer

University of Vermont

Ajai Malhotra

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine

Date Written: April 27, 2021

Abstract

Background: The association between education and health has been observed globally for a multitude of health measures. Variation in county-level COVID-19 burden in the United States (U.S.) provides an opportunity to identify community pandemic risk factors. We describe the influence of secondary education on county-level COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S.

Methods: County-level environmental, social, behavioral, economic, political, regulatory, and health characteristics were obtained. Covariates used for modeling were selected from a candidate list through negative binomial stepwise forward selection with backwards elimination, as well as clinical judgement for prediction of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Counterfactual and bootstrap analyses estimated the impact of secondary education on COVID-19 mortality.

Findings: High school dropout rate is one of the strongest predictors of COVID-19 cases (IRR 1.13, 95% CI 1.07; 1.18) and deaths (IRR 1.17, 95% CI 1.10; 1.26). Counterfactual analysis reducing the county-level high school dropout rate to the lowest in the nation resulted in a predicted 14.9% decrease in median county COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 (95% CI 6.98%; 22.82%). This hypothetical improvement in secondary education translated to approximately 57,680 preventable deaths throughout 2020 (95% CI: 30,654; 84,705).

Interpretation: Adjusting for covariates, secondary education is among the strongest predictors of early county vulnerability to COVID-19 in the U.S. A reduction in high school dropout rate predicted a near 15% decrease in county COVID-19 mortality. Improving secondary education could strengthen the effectiveness of a community’s response to emerging threats such as a pandemic.
Funding: None

Keywords: COVID-19, secondary education, public health, county-level

JEL Classification: I18, I14

Suggested Citation

Benson, Jamie and Amato, Stas and Osler, Turner and Hosmer, David and Malhotra, Ajai, Hard Lessons: The Impact of Secondary Education on COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the U.S. (April 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3825107 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3825107

Jamie Benson (Contact Author)

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine ( email )

89 Beaumont avenue
Burlington, VT Vermont 05405
United States

Stas Amato

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine ( email )

89 Beaumont avenue
Burlington, VT Vermont 05405
United States

Turner Osler

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine ( email )

89 Beaumont avenue
Burlington, VT Vermont 05405
United States

David Hosmer

University of Vermont ( email )

212 Kalkin Hall
Burlington, VT 05405-0158
United States

Ajai Malhotra

University of Vermont - Larner College of Medicine ( email )

89 Beaumont avenue
Burlington, VT Vermont 05405
United States

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