Educational Attainment and Alcohol Use before, during and after College

Jamie L. Lynch, St. Norbert College
Daniel Carlson, Georgia State University

The well-educated tend to have lower levels of morbidity and mortality than their less-educated counterparts. Although college attendance is generally associated with improved well-being and health behaviors, research suggests one exception – college attendance increases risky drinking. If a college education is linked with improved health, why is college attendance associated with an increase in alcohol use? This study attempts to resolve this theoretical disparity by comparing the drinking patterns of youth who do and do not attend college before, during, and after typical college ages. Results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, indicate that although college attenders increase their drinking during their college years, college-non-attenders drink more, and more riskily, at the same ages. In general, our results confirm a negative relationship between educational attainment and risky drinking, but suggest that this relationship is driven by selection rather than a causal effect of educational attainment.

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Presented in Session 3: Health Behaviors