The impact of increasing education levels on rising life expectancy: a decomposition analysis for Italy, Denmark, and the USA

Luy, M., Zannella, M., Wegner-Siegmundt, C., Minagawa, Y., Lutz, W. ORCID:, & Caselli, G. (2019). The impact of increasing education levels on rising life expectancy: a decomposition analysis for Italy, Denmark, and the USA. Genus 75 (1) 10.1186/s41118-019-0055-0.

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Project: The male-female health-mortality paradox (HEMOX, FP7 262663), Levels and Trends of Health Expectancy: Understanding its Measurement and Estimation Sensitivity (LETHE, H2020 725187)


Significant reductions in mortality are reflected in strong increases in life expectancy particularly in industrialized countries. Previous analyses relate these improvements primarily to medical innovations and advances in health-related behaviors. Mostly ignored, however, is the question to what extent the gains in life expectancy are related to structural changes in the populations due to increasing education levels. We decompose changes of the total populations’ life expectancy at age 30 in Italy, Denmark, and the USA, over the 20-year period between 1990 and 2010 into the effects of education-specific mortality changes (“M effect”) and changes in the populations’ educational structure (“P effect”). We use the “replacement decomposition technique” to further subdivide the M effect into the contributions by the individual education groups. While most of the increases in life expectancy are due to the effect of changing mortality, a large proportion of improvements in longevity can indeed be attributed to the changing structure of the population by level of education in all three countries. The estimated contribution of the P effect ranges from around 15% for men in the USA to approximately 40% for women in Denmark. This study demonstrates strong associations between education and overall population health, suggesting that education policies can also be seen as indirect health policies.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Denmark; Italy; USA
Uncontrolled Keywords: Life expectancy; Human capital; Education; Population structure; Decomposition; Health policy
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2019 07:04
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2023 05:01

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