colleges

Want to Live Longer? Then Go to College

New study by Brookings Institution scholars reports the mortality reduction benefits of higher education.

|

CollegeGraduationRawpixelimagesDreamstime
Rawpixelimages/Dreamstime

Demographers have known and reported for a long time that college graduates have longer life expectancies than do their fellow citizens that have a high school degree or lower educational attainment. For example, a 2010 study reported that average life expectancy for American men and women with a high school diploma averaged 76 and 81 years respectively. The life expectancies of those men and women who are college graduates were 82 and 87 years respectively. In other words, both college men and women could look forward to an average of 6 more years than high school graduates.

A new study from scholars associated with the Brookings Institution bolsters these earlier findings. The press release reports that

an additional year of college decreases mortality rates by 15 to 19 percent by reducing deaths from cancer and heart disease….The study, which notes that health benefits from education could increase the total returns to education by 15 to 55 percent, is important for policymakers currently grappling with proposals to reduce the high cost of college….The researchers point to prior research showing the correlation between education and health, including later life mortality. For example, high school graduates have a mortality rate that is double those with some college or a college degree, which "represents a significant non-pecuniary return to education. They would also imply that policies meant to increase educational attainment could serve as an important means for improving health."

In their Brookings notice, the authors suggest, "If individual investments in college education are suboptimal because of credit constraints, externalities, or lack of information, the presence of additional health returns to college strengthens the case for subsidizing education."

It is true that U.S. life expectancy has been climbing at the same time that the percentage of Americans with college degrees has been increasing. The new study claims to have identified a causal relationship between more education and better health. In their earlier NBER version of the study, the researchers note that college educated folks tend to smoke less, weigh less, exercise more, and have health insurance. The result is that they tend to experience heart disease and cancer (lung and colon) at later ages. The researchers suggest that "the impacts on cancer (especially lung cancer) and heart disease may be partially explained by the differences in behavior." So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

Advertisement

NEXT: Guantanamo Diary Author Released After 14 Years Without Trial or Charges

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Correlation=/=Causation

    1. What colorblindkid said. Also, let’s revisit this study down the road when Generation Crippling Debt is long-settled into the workforce. Assuming they actually get jobs, that is.

      1. The first cause that comes to mind is the work environment which these earlier generations of non-university educated people labored. They would have increased lifetime exposure to toxins that would not be near the college-educated people, thus leading to an increase in cancer rates. The heart disease is a bit more ambiguous.

        But that’s just a hypothesis. So yes, when people with useless degrees grow old, this statistical anomaly might vanish.

    2. Read the headline and had the same thought. But what if correlation does equal causation. College tuition already ignores basic economics and increases far faster than inflation. Maybe college educations really are magic. I think we should continue to try to reduce the cost of college by spending more money on it. Then everyone will live forever. Eat your hat Ponce de Leon!

    3. I came in to post exactly this. Maybe people that are more likely to take care of themselves are more likely to go to college.

    4. Correlation=/=Causation

      My first reaction as well.

      That Bailey even needs to ask the final question of the piece is very sad.

    5. Or more importantly, causation can go either way. Maybe the fact that those people go to college is caused by the fact that they are the type of people who eat their vegetables and live a responsible life as Ron sees it.

    6. Remember all the talk in recent years about the correlation between attending pre-school and succeeding in college? Make sure your kids attend pre-school, and you’ll help them do better in college, obviously.

      As it turns out, the more kids are forced into pre-schools, the more it’s being found that by about 3rd grade they are sick and tired of being told the same shit over and over again (because there’s only so much your brain is hard-wired to be able to pick up by then), and they show signs of performing more poorly compared to kids who don’t attend pre-schools.

      It has been suggested before that parents who could afford and were willing to force their kids into pre-school before it was fashionable were more likely to be able to afford and be willing to force their kids into college. But that kind of thinking won’t get funding for a government agency.

    7. Yup. This is more of the “confusing the markers for health/prosperity/happiness with the cause.”

      Hey, notice that homeowners tend to be financially better off and happier? Well, the confused response is to subsidize home ownership, as if owning the damn thing is what causes these results, and not that these markers are the result of other causes.

    8. It bothers me that this needs to be pointed out. The number of potential “third variable” issues here are YUGE!

      In particular, what precisely is the mechanism that would cause this to happen?

  2. “If individual investments in college education are suboptimal because of credit constraints, externalities, or lack of information, the presence of additional health returns to college strengthens the case for subsidizing education.”

    Correlation / causation, how does it work?

  3. I’m sorry, what’s the mechanism that makes colledge education cause higher life expectancy?

    Because if children bornt wealthier people both enjoy better health as a result of better childhood nutrition, and are more likely to graduate from college, sending kids who ate a diet based around cheezy-poofs to college ain’t going to do shit for them.

    1. The Brookings Institution has found a rationalization for even more education subsidies. That’s the only mechanism that matters.

      1. It’s cargo cult thinking.

        “White man come, build runways. Airplanes land on runways. The bring much much cargo. If we build’um runways the ariplanes will bring us much, much cargo!”

        1. Of course, Bailey would never transliterate this to any other subject?

      2. ^This.

    2. Turns out binge drinking is good for you.

    3. “Our IV point estimates suggest that one additional year of college will lead to 21 fewer deaths per 1,000 men by age 65. Therefore, smoking could explain about a third of the mortality differential we find.”

      However they go on to say

      “Vietnam veterans had higher rates of smoking but lower rates of heart disease and cancer.”

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/s…..9616301382

  4. People more likely to think long term and are in a position to go to college live longer.
    Sigh.
    Well at least it’s not a trump article.

    1. Man u guys type fast.

      1. Yet they are still in 7th place.

  5. I’m sure people that drive Mercedes live longer than people that buy Geo metros also. So buy a Mercedes to live longer.

    The story here is the absolute shit status of academia regularly producing pointless shit like this and collecting paychecks to do so.

    1. I mean, are we counting people who die in wrecks? Because while “survivable” for a tiny car, the Metro is not comparable in crash safety to most Mercedes, even the coupes. That shouldn’t count in this study, right?

      1. I feel like buying a Metro is a kind of death.

        1. Don’t you want to feel the rumble of 3 cylinders of pure Geo power?

          1. Are you making fun of my ride?

            1. Thank goodness that spoiler was installed. It might have been a disaster other wise.

              1. Yeah, when you’re trying to harness the power of Geo Metro, some aero downforce is essential.

            2. This is what happens when a John Deere gets out through an open gate and into a Walmart parking lot.

  6. This is why you should listen to Bailey about science, he clearly gets it.

    1. I lol’d

  7. People who don’t die live longer, so what you should really do is try and not die.

    1. 100% of nonsmokers die.

      1. But how are we going to live FOREVER?? – Bailey

        1. Go to college forever, bang, done.

          1. Think of how raped youd be though

  8. The researchers suggest that “the impacts on cancer (especially lung cancer) and heart disease may be partially explained by the differences in behavior.” So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    Bailey does hit the key point. But fails to answer it.

    1. Or, more accurately, fails to point out if the studies answer it.

    2. If anything, college seems to promote instant gratification. YOLO, brah!

  9. But more importantly, what’s the college/carbon ratio?

  10. To paraphrase the Sagacious Brooke Shields:

    Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.

  11. This is an article/blogpost about an article about an article that appears in the Journal of Economic Health. And not having an Elsevier account (or other access to academic articles), I can’t check the article itself.

    But I can look at the abstract, which includes the line “We also explore potential mechanisms, including differential earnings and health insurance.”

    So it seems that Mr. Bailey’s (as well as commentor’s) concerns over researchers jumping the gun are themselves jumping the gun, assuming that an article they haven’t actually read makes claims not identified in the abstract.

    1. Care to take a stab at what exactly they think is going on? What really is the point of the study? Assuming Bailey didn’t just make up the quote below, then these goofballs are still saying something that is ridiculous:

      an additional year of college decreases mortality rates by 15 to 19 percent by reducing deaths from cancer and heart disease …The study, which notes that health benefits from education could increase the total returns to education by 15 to 55 percent, is important for policymakers currently grappling with proposals to reduce the high cost of college.”

      It clearly says that college decreases mortality rates, which is absurd.

      1. Yeah, at best its correlated or associated with lower mortality. Saying it decreases mortality is assuming the conclusion.

    2. First of all, I guarantee you they are jumping the gun. That’s what statisticians and social scientists do when they’re trying to get important results. Second:

      But I can look at the abstract, which includes the line “We also explore potential mechanisms, including differential earnings and health insurance.”

      So universal college, wealth redistribution, or universal healthcare, which will it be?

  12. Central planners fucking love “science” because the unwashed masses can’t tell the difference between evidence and spurious correlations. The only people who believe this are the people who really want to believe it because $FeelTheBern (they really, really want free shit).

  13. Boy it would suck to have been randomized into the “can’t go to college” cohort for this study, especially if you were conscientious and intelligent.

    1. What about the dumbasses who got stuck in the “go to college” cohort who were too dense for it and ended up with crippling debt and indoctrination?

  14. So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    So does college teach the habits of delayed and restrained gratification that produce healthier lifestyles, or do folks who already have those habits tend to graduate from college?

    Just in case anybody missed the suggested correlation/causation thing at the end of the article they didn’t read.

    1. Too much bold; didn’t read.

    2. Someone else posted the quote you think people missed, but didnt.

    3. You must be really bitter about the squirrels never double-posting you.

    4. Why, in all that is right and holy, would anyone with a functioning brain ever need to even ask this question? That’s the point.

    5. Yes.

      I mean no.

      Shit, is this gonna be on the test?

    6. Well I read that, and figured the answer was obvious to anyone smarter than a DMV employee.

      1. It’s Bailey?

    7. Doesn’t help that it is posited as a caveat after they declared the conclusion that college actually decreases mortality.

  15. Well this sure seems to be pretty good evidence that we should scrap Social Security and Medicare and send the elderly off to college instead.

  16. People often confuse common cause with cause and effect. Smart people tend to pursue more education. Smart people tend to live longer. When two things have the same cause it is easy to analyze the data and find a correlation. Many people will try to assign one as the cause of the other even if that isn’t the case.

  17. Did the researchers stop to consider: maybe correlation=/=causation?

  18. The neckbeardiest of neckbeards. 95% of lightsaber academy members have meticulously organized Edguy album collections, and aruge vehemently over which is the best Edguy album.

    1. I should not be working today. Managing to comment on the wrong thread? I’m gonna click a wrong button and delete all our income statement formats or something.

      1. Hey, it got a chuckle out of me… but then again I might have been laughing at you rather than the comment.

        1. The best part is it was a subpar quality comment to begin with. I’m sentencing myself to 3 standard 72 hour monocle polishing shifts as punishment.

  19. For those of you who are unable to delay the gratification of commenting, Bailey saved the punchline for the end of the article.

    1. He asked an idiotic question that a high school statistics student could easily answer.

    2. One sentence at the end of an article doesn’t absolve all the preceding retardation.

  20. In tonight’s news: Bourgeois Life Choices Lengthen Your Life.

    [I’m butt-chuggin’ meth tonight]

  21. Here’s some plausible causation: college educated people (controlling for IQ, etc.) are more likely to work in a large office building, making it nearly impossible to be a heavy smoker.

  22. OT: I can’t wait until Bailey covers this.

    http://www.popularmechanics.co…..o-ethanol/

    1. I ain’t no good at the science, but . . . doesn’t ‘burn fuel for energy’ make more sense than ‘burn fuel to convert CO2 to ethanol, which can be burned for energy’?

  23. The article is actually pretty clever. They use the vietnam war as a period where lots of people went to college who wouldn’t otherwise have gone. Because they were avoiding the draft.

    What’s hard to tease out (and I didn’t read the whole, painfully boring journal article) is which kids were going to college anyway?

    And they have trouble explaining why vietnam vets (ones who didn’t die and didn’t go to college) had higher rates of smoking, but “lower rates of cancer and heart disease.” I assume they are comparing to kids who didn’t go to college and didn’t get drafted.

  24. With my background, do you know the kind of shit I could “prove” using these sorts of statistics?

  25. Wet streets cause rain.

    Markers of middle class success are always confused for its causes. And always with wonderful results. Selling half million dollar houses to illegal Mexican landscapers making 9 bucks an hour because home ownership would make them middle class, for example. 40 years from now when half of the graduating class of 2016 is on Medicaid prematurely dying from preventable diseases maybe we’ll revisit the topic in bewilderment in the same way we did with housing after 2008.

  26. Nice Post. Great and useful information. This is a very good & unique idea. I am very happy to see this post. Thanks for sharing. To know more visit here https://www.cakeresume.com/terran-perry?locale=en

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.