Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Education and Health – Is there really no Causal Relationship?

Project Number:



Markus Gehrsitz (University of Strathclyde)

Start Date:

1st December 2017


This project is concerned with estimating the causal effect of education on health.

Causality is established by exploiting a natural experiment, namely a change in compulsory schooling laws. This change prompted a quasi-randomly selected treatment group to obtain more education than an otherwise identical control group. In contrast to previous studies that could merely identify correlations, a comparison of these two groups will yield a causal effect.

Education in this case refers to years of high school education. By raising the school leaving age from 15 to 16 in September 1972, students born after August 31st 1957 have tended to stay in school significantly longer than people born on or just before August 31st. It is these differences in educational attainment in otherwise virtually identical populations that will be exploited.

Health is measured in several dimensions. This study evaluates health care utilization, prescription drug use and the associated medical conditions, mortality, mental health, cancer diagnoses, substance abuse, as well as self-reported health and disabilities.

The key hypothesis is that an additional year of education has a positive effect on health outcomes (i.e. leads to lower mortality) and is associated with more utilization of preventative care. It should, however, be noted that previous studies have failed to find such a positive relationship


Behrman, Jere R., et al. "Does more schooling reduce hospitalization and delay mortality? New evidence based on Danish twins." Demography 48.4 (2011): 1347-1375.
Clark, Damon, and Heather Royer. "The effect of education on adult mortality and health: Evidence from Britain." The American Economic Review103.6 (2013): 2087-2120.
Grossman, Michael. "On the concept of health capital and the demand for health." Journal of Political Economy 80.2 (1972): 223-255.
Grossman, Michael. The relationship between health and schooling: What’s new?. No. w21609. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper, 2015.
Oreopoulos, Philip. "Estimating average and local average treatment effects of education when compulsory schooling laws really matter." The American Economic Review 96.1 (2006): 152-175.
Seager, Ashley. "School-leaving Age May Rise to 18 in Effort to Tackle Unemployment." The Guardian, January 4 2009.

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