The Evolution of the Schooling-Smoking Gradient

Posted: 22 Jun 2007

See all articles by Donald Kenkel

Donald Kenkel

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Feng Liu

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics; The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

We explore how the schooling-smoking gradient has evolved over time. Using data from 11 Gallup Surveys conducted between 1954 and 1999, we find that the schooling-smoking gradient first emerged in tandem with a schooling-health knowledge gradient. As early as 1957, a schooling-knowledge gradient developed, with 62 percent of college graduates agreeing that smoking was a cause of lung cancer, compared to only 46 percent of those with less than a college degree. After the mid-1970s, the schooling-knowledge gradient began to flatten but the schooling-smoking gradient did not. To further explore the role of health knowledge, we tighten our focus to the schooling-smoking cessation gradient. We use contemporaneous and retrospective information on smoking cessation from six cycles of the Tobacco Use Supplements to the Current Population Survey (TUS-CPS). We again document the evolution of a strong gradient: In the 1950s, smoking cessation rates were low and similar across schooling categories, but by 1987 the smoking cessation rate for smokers with a college education was about double the rate for high school dropouts. We test two hypotheses based on possible roles health knowledge may have played in the schooling-cessation gradient. Our first hypothesis is that the gradient should be steeper in the cohorts who initiated smoking before the spread of knowledge about the health consequences. In these cohorts, there will be more people who started smoking only because of their lack of health knowledge, so we expect that as the knowledge spreads they will decide to quit. Our second hypothesis is that the gradient steepens after the introduction of effective pharmaceutical products for smoking cessation. Schooling may have helped smokers learn about and adopt the new products more quickly.

Keywords: schooling, smoking, health knowledge

JEL Classification: I12

Suggested Citation

Kenkel, Donald and Liu, Feng, The Evolution of the Schooling-Smoking Gradient (June 2007). iHEA 2007 6th World Congress: Explorations in Health Economics Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=993861

Donald Kenkel (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

120 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-2594 (Phone)
607-255-4071 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Feng Liu

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics ( email )

777 Guoding Road
Shanghai, AK Shanghai 200433
China

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen ( email )

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