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The effect of education on adult mortality, health, and income: triangulating across genetic and policy reforms

By Neil M Davies, Matt Dickson, George Davey Smith, Frank Windmeijer, Gerard J van den Berg

Posted 19 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/250068

On average, educated people are healthier, wealthier and have higher life expectancy than those with less education. Numerous studies have attempted to determine whether these differences are caused by education, or are merely correlated with it and are ultimately caused by another factor. Previous studies have used a range of natural experiments to provide causal evidence. Here we exploit two natural experiments, perturbation of germline genetic variation associated with education which occurs at conception, known as Mendelian randomization, and a policy reform, the raising of the school leaving age in the UK in 1972. Previous studies have suggested that the differences in outcomes associated with education may be due to confounding. However, the two independent sources of variation we exploit largely imply consistent causal effects of education on outcomes much later in life.

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