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Faculty & Staff Honors

Rutgers Study Finds that Kids’ Health Outcomes Have More to do with Parental Education Than Income

Rutgers School of Public Health faculty, Drs. Alan Monheit and Irina Grafova, have found that parents educated beyond high school have healthier families.

Parents educated beyond high school invest more in family health care, reducing the likelihood of adverse medical conditions despite differences in family income and health insurance, according to the study which appeared in the Southern Economic Journal.

The study examined the association between parental education and family health care spending in single-mother and two-parent families based on data from the 2004 to 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The researchers found that parental education beyond twelve years is associated with increases in family health care spending and decreases in specific health conditions and poor health status, including hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.

According to Drs. Monheit and Grafova, higher parental education was associated with increased total health care spending on both children and parents, and was also associated with sizeable increases on ambulatory care spending for both family types. For instance, compared to single-mother families in which the mother lacks a high school diploma, single-mother families in which a mother is college educated spend an additional $1,000 annually toward family ambulatory health care. The study also found that families headed by single mothers who had higher levels of education spent more for prescription drugs and dental care while two-parent families with more education spent more for dental care and mental health services.

“Our study confirms the important association between the educational attainment of parents and the family’s access to and use of health care services,” said Dr. Monheit.

The study’s findings support the well-established “Grossman model of health demand,” in which a child’s health endowment is increased by investments in health that depend on inputs of medical care and parental time, and depreciates over time. The study thus supports the critical association between education and monetary investments in health.

Education and family health care spending” appeared in the Southern Economic Journal.