Publications

The Enduring Association between Education and Mortality: The Role of Widening and Narrowing Disparities

This article examines how educational disparities in mortality emerge, grow, decline, and disappear across causes of death in the United States, and how these changes contribute to the enduring association between education and mortality over time. Focusing on adults age 40 to 64 years, we first examine the extent to which educational disparities in mortality persisted from 1989 to 2007. We then test the fundamental cause prediction that educational disparities in mortality persist, in part, by shifting to new health outcomes over time. We focus on the period from 1999 to 2007, when all causes of death were coded to the same classification system. Results indicate (1) substantial widening and narrowing of educational disparities in mortality across causes of death, (2) almost all causes of death with increasing mortality rates also had widening educational disparities, and (3) the total educational disparity in mortality would be about 25 percent smaller today if not for newly emergent and growing educational disparities since 1999. These results point to the theoretical and policy importance of identifying social forces that cause health disparities to widen over time.