Dissertations and Theses

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DPH)


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Jennifer Dowd

Committee Members

Shiro Horiuchi

Mary Schooling

Anna Zajacova

Subject Categories

Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Epidemiology | Inequality and Stratification | Public Health


educational attainment, health, mortality, health disparities, economic conditions


Although the association between educational attainment and health is one of the most studied in the social science, little is known about the role of social and economic context. Fundamental Cause Theory suggests that the education-health gradient will be weakest in contexts where the better educated are unable to leverage their resources to achieve better health. This dissertation tests several different factors that may moderate the association between educational attainment and morbidity and mortality: 1. Demographic characteristics, including race, immigration status, and gender, 2. Status consistency (defined as education equivalent to that required for current occupation), 3. Unemployment rates at time of school leaving.

Overall, the association between educational attainment and morbidity and mortality was attenuated in populations unable to put their education to full use in the labor market. For example, the association was weaker and not statistically significant in Native Americans, a group that has experienced income inequality compared to Whites of comparable educational attainment. Moreover, being over qualified (education

Overall, the findings of this dissertation lend some support to the hypothesis that the association between education and health is modified by social and economic conditions. More research is needed to understand the complex pathways that allow the well-educated to enjoy better heath.



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