Unobserved heterogeneity can confound the effect of education on mortality

Anna Zajacova, Noreen Goldman, Germán Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Two opposing hypotheses were proposed to explain the life course pattern in the effect of education on mortality: "cumulative advantage," where the education effect becomes stronger with age, and "age-as-leveler," where the effect becomes weaker in old age. Most empirical studies bring evidence for the latter hypothesis, but the observed convergence of mortality patterns could be an artifact of selective mortality due to unobserved heterogeneity. A simulation shows that unobserved heterogeneity can bias the estimated effect of education downward so that the cohort-average effect of education decreases in old age regardless of the shape of the underlying subject-specific trajectory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-173
Number of pages21
JournalMathematical Population Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Age-as-leveler
  • Cumulative advantage
  • Education
  • Heterogeneity
  • Life course
  • Mortality


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