Impact of Education on Mortality Addressed at Hill Briefing

August 2015

Well over 100 congressional staff, federal agency employees, and members of the research community attended the congressional briefing “Live Long and Prosper: The Impact of Education on Mortality,” on July 27. The event was organized by the Population Association of America and cosponsored by AERA.

A panel of nationally recognized scientists discussed recent research findings on how educational attainment affects important life factors, including long-term health and mortality.

Robert Kaplan, chief science officer at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, drawing from the 2013 Institute of Medicine report “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” explained how U.S. educational attainment is slipping. While U.S. grade school students score above the international average in reading, math, and science, by age 15 students’ scores drop to average or below.

Kaplan mentioned his own research that indicates that life expectancy and health disparities are highly correlated with disparities in fourth grade math. A historical context for the growing importance of education and social factors for longevity was provided by Ryan Masters, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Jennifer Montez, Syracuse University, focused on the quality of health within mortality, demonstrating that in addition to the correlation of a longer life expectancy with higher education levels, the number of unhealthy years decreases with additional education. Montez also explained how additional education has the potential to “alleviate the health consequences of being raised in adverse circumstances.”

Vida Maralani, Yale University, focused on the interaction between smoking and education, demonstrating how education and health are intertwined across the life course.

The PowerPoint presentations from the event are available online.