University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center
Robert A. Hummer, Principal Investigator - NICHD R01 HD053696

About the Study

Persistent educational differences in mortality in the United States represent a troubling and challenging issue. Recent research finds that U.S. adults with less than a high school education had nearly twice the risk of mortality in a five-year follow-up period compared to adults with graduate degrees. This translates into 5-to-7 years of differential life expectancy at age 25 across educational groups, depending on the specific sex and racial/ethnic group in question. The overall goal of this project is to improve understanding of the linkage between educational attainment and overall and cause-specific adult mortality within the population as a whole and among various subgroups of the adult population. Although the overall relationship between educational level and adult mortality risk has been quite well documented since the classic Kitagawa-Hauser (1973) study that used 1960 data, surprisingly little attention has been given to how this relationship varies by race/ethnicity, nativity, gender, age, and cause of death. Further, there are considerable debates regarding the extent to which educational differences in mortality have been widening or narrowing over time, whether or not educational differences in mortality widen or narrow with increasing age, and how other socioeconomic and health variables mediate the relationship between education and mortality risk. This project uses data from several different nationally-representative sources to provide the most in-depth examination of education and U.S. adult mortality in the United States to date. The proposed research addresses a topic of immense scientific and public policy interest and helps to inform a great deal of other current work that examines educational differences in health changes, health behavior, and disability trajectories throughout the life course.