Elena Capatina - Why a College Educated Spouse Brings Healthy Life

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Arezou Zaresani


Melbourne Institute Seminar Series

Title: Why a College Educated Spouse Brings Healthy Life

Abstract: Using data on married individuals from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we find that having a college educated spouse is strongly associated with better health, better health behaviors, better health transition, and lower mortality, after accounting for own education and demographics. Four main mechanisms could lead to this association: (1) selection into marriage with a college educated spouse, (2) effects of spousal education on household level characteristics, (3) a correlation between spousal education and his/her health, which affects own health and behaviors, and (4) cross-productivity in health production between spouses. We use controls on own and family background, household characteristics, and spouse health to empirically quantify the contribution of mechanisms (1)-(3). We find that selection into marriage with a college educated wife explains a large fraction of the association between spousal education and better health for non-college educated males only. For all other groups, causal mechanisms dominate in importance. Household level characteristics account for a small fraction of the association, while spouse's health plays a relatively larger role. Together, observables account for the entire association in the non-college male group, but for less than half of the association in all other demographic groups. The unexplained fraction is likely due to cross-productivity between spouses in health production. Our findings are relevant for theories of health capital formation, returns to education, health inequality, and marriage market decisions.

Presenter: Elena Capatina, The University of New South Wales & Australian National University

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