Adolescent Health and Its Effects on Educational Attainment: Evidence from Two Nationally Representative Longitudinal Studies (NLSY79 and NLSY97)

Anna Zajacova, University of Wyoming
Katrina M. Walsemann, University of South Carolina

We examine how adolescent health impacts educational attainment among American adults. Linear models and within-sibling fixed-effects models are used to analyze data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 and 1997 cohorts, which include information on the adolescents’ health, parental background, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and subsequent educational attainment. The results indicate that adolescent health limitations and self-rated health are only moderately associated with adult educational attainment. The bivariate relationship is in the expected direction and significant but the effects are fully explained by ‘traditional’ predictors of attainment like parental background. The results suggest that at the population level, adolescent health may not have a pronounced independent influence on educational attainment. Research on educational determinants of adult health should primarily incorporate individuals’ childhood socioeconomic status and cognitive and noncognitive characteristics as potential confounders.

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Presented in Session 52: Personality, Cognition and Health