The Benefits of Educational Attainment for U.S. Adult Mortality: Are they Contingent on the Broader Environment?

Jennifer Karas Montez, Kaitlyn Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The growing recognition that educational attainment is one of the strongest preventive factors for adult health and longevity has fueled an interest in educational attainment as a population health strategy. However, less attention has been given to identifying social, economic, and behavioral resources that may moderate the health and longevity benefits of education. We draw on theories of resource substitution and multiplication to examine the extent to which the education–mortality association is contingent on other resources (marriage, employment, income, healthy lifestyles). We use data on adults aged 30–84 in the 1997–2006 National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File and estimate discrete-time event history models stratified by gender (N = 146,558; deaths = 10,399). We find that the mortality benefits of education are generally largest for adults—especially women—who have other resources such as employment and marriage, supporting the theory of resource multiplication. Nonetheless, our results also imply that other resources can potentially attenuate the mortality disadvantages (advantages) associated with low (high) levels of education. The findings suggest that efforts to improve population health and longevity by raising education levels should be augmented with strategies that assure widespread access to social, economic, and behavioral resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-100
Number of pages28
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Education
  • Gender
  • Gradient
  • Mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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