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J Health Soc Behav. 2006 Dec;47(4):324-38.

Explaining life course and cohort variation in the relationship between education and health: the role of income.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, 114 Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


Researchers have attempted to explain the relationship between education and health by incorporating mediators-such as income--through which schooling affects health. Research has also shown that the education-health relationship varies across age and cohort. This article integrates these themes in an investigation of the role income plays in the changing relationship between education and health. Using data from the 1972-2001 National Health Interview Surveys, I find that the direct relationship between education and health is weakening across cohorts, while the indirect effect of education through income is strengthening across cohorts. Cohort change in this indirect effect is equally attributable to change in the relationships between education and income and between income and health. Life course differences in direct and indirect relationships vary in shape, suggesting that a substantive explanation---one that does not rely solely on selective mortality--is warranted. The results suggest that future research should continue to employ a life course framework.

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