Unhealthy parents and delayed matriculation from college: an important twist on the education-health association

Ross Macmillan, Università Bocconi
Kari Alexander, University of Colorado at Boulder
Richard Miech, University of Colorado at Denver
Michael J. Shanahan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jason D. Boardman, University of Colorado at Boulder

In this paper we explore the links between parental health and the subsequent educational attainment of their children when they are adults. We use four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n=13,556) to examine the influence of parental health when respondents were adolescents (1995) on the likelihood that the respondents will have graduated from college by their late 20s (2008). We also examine four mechanisms that may explain this association. College matriculation rates were 11.6% and 41.4% for those whose parents listed their as “Poor” or “Excellent” respectively (baseline OR = 1.53). Statistical controls for socioeconomic factors shared by parents and children accounted for the bulk of this association but we continue to see a residual effect of parental health on the educational attainment of their children despite adjusting for the health status of the respondent, parental education and income, community socioeconomic status, health behaviors of parents and respondents, as well as parental time investment. These findings provide a unique perspective on discussions involving causation and selection models of health and socioeconomic status. The intergenerational transmission of both education and health highlights the complexity and demonstrates the significance of this association.

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Presented in Session 46: Education and health/mortality

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