Are Educational Differentials in Adult Mortality Increasing in the United States?

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Citation: Preston, Samuel H., Elo, Irma T. (1995) Are Educational Differentials in Adult Mortality Increasing in the United States?. Journal of Aging and Health (RSS)




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Notes: Using data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Survey (NLMS), the authors compare the size of educational mortality differentials in the 1980s (1979-1985) to estimates for 1960. The measures the authors use are the slope index of inequality (an estimate of how much change in death rates is associated with moving up the educational ladder), the relative index of inequality (the absolute expected change in death rates in moving from the lowest to the highest levels of schooling), and the index of dissimilarity (the minimum proportion of deaths that would have to be redistributed to equalize the distributions of deaths and population, thereby eliminating all educational differences in mortality, like Gini coefficient). Their results are consistent with previous findings that show a widening of educational differentials in mortality for White men. In both age intervals (ages 25-64 and 65-74), each of the three measures indicates that educational inequality in mortality was greater in 1979-85 than 1960. For White females however, both the absolute and relative measure of inequality at ages 25-64 suggest that educational differentials in mortality have narrowed rather than expanded since 1960. For women aged 65-74, the results are more mixed. The absolute measure of inequality declines, while both relative measures increase. Being at the low wend of the educational distribution in 1979-7985 was associated with a smaller absolute penalty in death rates than in 1960, but a larger relative penalty (only possible b/c of falling death rates for all women). The widening of relative inequality has, however, been substantially less for older women than for older men. The largest increase in inequality on any measure between 1960 and 1979-1985 occurred for men aged 65-74. However, the magnitude of increase is somewhat uncertain due to coding problem in the 1960 data. The authors argue that less-educated women may have suffered from less mortality inequality than less educated men as a result of women's increased labor force participation from 1960 to 1985 and the introduction of Medicaid (which women may be more readily eligible for b/c AFDC, etc.). However, more educated women gained more in terms of income, etc, with their higher levels of labor force participation and Medicare made medical services available to all elderly (the group in which the largest mortality differences are found).