Does Higher Education Reduce Mortality? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Chile

Produced by: 
Universidad del Rosario
Available from: 
October 2020
Paper author(s): 
María Angélica Bautista
Felipe González
Luis R. Martínez
Pablo Munoz
Mounu Prem
Topic: 
Education - Health
Year: 
2020

We exploit the sharp downward kink in college enrollment experienced by cohorts reaching college age after the 1973 military coup in Chile to study the causal effect of higher education on mortality. Using micro-data from the vital statistics for 1994-2017, we document an upward kink in the age-adjusted yearly mortality rate among the affected cohorts. Leveraging the kink in college enrollment, we estimate a negative effect of college on mortality, which is larger for men, but also sizable for women. Intermediate labor market outcomes (e.g., labor force participation) explain 30% of the reduction in mortality. A similar upward kink in mortality over multiple time horizons is also present among hospitalized patients in the affected cohorts, with observable characteristics (i.e. diagnostic, hospital, insurance) explaining over 40%. Survey responses reveal that college substantially improves access to private health care, but has mixed effects on health behaviors.

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