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The Effect of School Quality on Black-White Health Differences: Evidence from Segregated Southern Schools

David Frisvold and Ezra Golberstein
CHCS Working Paper 2011-1
December 2011

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This paper assesses the effect of black-white differences in school quality on those differences in health in later life due to the racial convergence in school quality for cohorts born between 1910 and 1950 in southern states with segregated schools. Using data from the 1984 through 2007 National Health Interview Surveys linked to race-specific data on school quality, we find that reductions in the black-white gap in the pupil-teacher ratio and term length led to reductions in the black-white gap in self-rated health and disability.

JEL classification: I12, I21, J24

Key words: education, health status, school quality, health disparities


This paper was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Emory University Woodruff Funds, and the Emory Global Health Institute. The authors thank Al Headen, Ellen Meara, Frank Sloan, Jim Walker, Ty Wilde, seminar participants at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the University of Wisconsin, participants at the American Society of Health Economists biennial conference, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management annual conference, and the Southeastern Health Economics Study Group for helpful comments. The authors thank David Card for sharing school quality data and are especially grateful to Stephanie Robinson and Deborah Rose at the National Center for Health Statistics for their assistance with the restricted-access National Health Interview Survey data.

Please address questions regarding content to corresponding author Ezra Golberstein, University of Minnesota, Division of Health Policy and Management, and Minnesota Population Center, 420 Delaware St. SE, MMC 729, Minneapolis, MN 55455, 612-626-2572, fax 612-624-2196, egolber@umn.edu; David Frisvold, Emory University, Department of Economics, 1602 Fishburne Dr., Atlanta, GA 30322-2240, 404-727-7833, fax 404-727-4639, david.frisvold@emory.edu.