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Milbank Q. 2019 Mar;97(1):48-73. doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.12372.

The Economic Value of Education for Longer Lives and Reduced Disability.

Author information

1
University of Colorado Denver and Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder.
2
Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University.
3
College of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, New York University.

Abstract

Policy Points Although it is well established that educational attainment improves health and longevity, the economic value of this benefit is unknown. We estimate that the economic value of education for longer, healthier lives is comparable to or greater than the value of education for lifetime earnings. Policies that increase rates of completion of high school and college degrees could result in longer, healthier lives and substantial economic value for the population. We provide a template for assigning an economic value to the health benefits associated with education or other social determinants, allowing policymakers to prioritize those interventions that yield the greatest value for the population.

CONTEXT:

Policymakers often frame the value of educational attainment in terms of economic outcomes (eg, employment, productivity, wages). But that approach may understate the value of education if it ignores the economic value of both longer lives and the reduced disability associated with more education.

METHODS:

In this article, we estimated the present value of the longer life and reduced disability associated with higher educational attainment at age 25 through age 84. We used prospective survival data and cross-sectional disability data from the National Health Interview Survey-Linked Mortality Files and drew on published estimates of the economic value of a statistical life. In addition, we used data from the Current Population Survey-Annual Social and Economic supplement to estimate the present value of education for lifetime earnings at age 25 through age 64 in order to provide a benchmark for comparing the value of education for health.

FINDINGS:

Compared with those with less than a high school degree, the longer lives of those with a high school degree are worth an additional $450,000 for males and $479,000 for females, and the additional disability-adjusted life for those with a high school degree is worth $693,000 for males and $757,000 for females. By comparison, the additional lifetime earnings for those with a high school degree, rather than less than a high school degree, is $213,000 for males and $194,000 for females. Compared with those with a high school degree, the longer lives for those with a baccalaureate degree are worth an additional $446,000 for males and $247,000 for females. The value of the additional disability-adjusted life associated with having a baccalaureate degree rather than a high school degree is $611,000 for males and $407,000 among females. By comparison, the additional lifetime earnings for those with a baccalaureate degree, rather than a high school degree, is $628,000 for males and $459,000 for females.

CONCLUSIONS:

The value of education for longer, healthier lives may surpass the value for earnings. Estimates of the economic value of the social determinants of health, such as education, can help policymakers prioritize those policies that provide the greatest value for population health.

KEYWORDS:

education; health disparities; population health; socioeconomic status

PMID:
30883958
PMCID:
PMC6422607
[Available on 2020-03-01]
DOI:
10.1111/1468-0009.12372
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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