Education and Gender Differences in Mortality Rates

Abstract

We examine the gender asymmetries in the health benefits of acquiring further education at a time of increasing gender equality and women’s greater access to economic opportunities. A labor market reform in Spain in 1980 raised the minimum legal working age from 14 to 16, while the school-leaving age remained at 14. We apply a difference-in-difference strategy to identify the reform’s within-cohort effects, where treated and control individuals differ only in their month of birth. Although the reform improved the educational attainment of both women and men, the long-term effects over mortality differ by gender. We find that the reform decreased mortality at young ages (14-29) by 6.3% among men and by 8.9% among women. This was driven by a decrease (12.2% for men, 14.7% for women) in the probability of dying from external causes of death (accidents). However, we also find that the child labor reform increased mortality for prime-age women (30-45) by 6.3%. This effect is driven by increases in HIV mortality (11.6%), as well as by diseases of the nervous and circulatory system (8.7%). This pattern helps explain the narrowing age gap in life expectancy between women and men in Spain.