Sarah Dahmann - The Protective (?) Effect of Education on Mental Health

Melbourne Institute Seminar

Melbourne Institute Seminar Room
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Barbara Broadway

Title: The Protective (?) Effect of Education on Mental Health

Abstract: This paper analyzes whether education has a protective effect on mental health. To estimate causal effects, we employ an instrumental-variable (IV) technique with two different instruments to estimate local average treatment effects at different parts of the educational distribution: (i) a reform extending compulsory schooling by one year implemented between 1949 and 1969 in West German federal states, and (ii) the individual availability of higher education measured by the spatial distance to the nearest university at age 19. We use rich individual data on adults aged 50 to 85 from the German Socio-Economic Panel study, augmented by detailed information on universities from the German Rectors' Conference. We complement analyses on the Mental Component Summary score as a generic measure of overall mental health by disorder-specific diagnoses. Results support existing evidence on a positive relationship between completed years of secondary schooling and mental health in standard OLS estimations. In contrast however, the IV estimations reveal no such causal protective effect. If any, the estimates point toward a negative effect among the lower-educated. These results are confirmed when explicitly modeling effect heterogeneity through marginal treatment effects.

Presenter: Dr Sarah Dahmann, University of Sydney

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