Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Education is among the strongest socioeconomic predictors of health and mortality. However, the social nature of the relationship of education and health is rarely taken into account.
The first chapter of the dissertation looks into how macrosocial context can influence this association. I investigate the changes in the educational gradient in health in Russia in the 2000s using two waves of WHO SAGE survey to show some suggestive evidence that the educational gradients are narrowing following the socioeconomic changes in Russia during the decade, at least for some measures of health.
Household and family level social structure is also a significant explanatory factor that mediates the association of education and health. In the second chapter, I use data from the 11 waves of HRS to show that spousal education is an important factor in predicting health outcomes net of one’s own education. In particular, I demonstrate how health benefits of having an educated wife appear to accumulate over time, while health benefits of an educated husband are more closely related to contemporaneous measures. Additionally, I observe that the effects of spousal education on mortality and self-rated health are manifested differently. The association between education and self-rated health is present even when mediating variables are controlled for, while the effect becomes insignificant for mortality measures.
Finally, the third chapter shows how family level social characteristics (namely, spousal education) can interact with macro level social structure (country context) in forming health outcomes. I use data from 18 countries collected using comparable methodologies (HRS sister studies harmonized by the Global Gateway to Aging project). The results show that welfare regimes in the countries have some predictive power for explaining educational gradients in health, and more egalitarian countries do show less steep gradients. Importantly, however, country-specific context is a stronger predictor of the effects of spousal education on women’s health. Men, on the other hand, benefit more similarly from the higher educational attainment of their wives in different countries.
Shpenev, Alexey, "Three Essays On Social Context, Education, And Health Outcomes Among Older Adults" (2017). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2584.