Saturday, October 2, 2021
Economists, sociologists, and public health researchers have long observed that more highly educated groups tend to be healthier and live longer than those that are less educated. Debates emerged about whether increasing levels of education caused improvements in health. Some economists argue that those who know themselves to be healthy at a young age will be more likely to pursue additional education because they expect to benefit from it more, over a longer career because their greater health enables them to work longer and harder. Many others argued that education inculcates healthier habits--diet, exercise, sleep, medical checkups, prophylactic use, skepticism about "alternative" (non-evidence-based) medicine--and provides individuals with the literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills to make better health-related decisions going forward.
A new study by my colleagues at USC's Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) finds that more highly educated populations are more likely to be vaccinated, more likely to choose to be vaccinated, believe that vaccines are more effective, and believe that the risks from vaccination are lower, compared to their less educated counterparts. Across education levels, Asians are the most pro-vaccination group, while blacks are the least.
The association between education and vaccination beliefs and decisions is stronger than the relationship between race and vaccination status. Though speculative, this would seem to suggest that education may help cause health decisions that are more consistent with the scientific consensus among medical experts.
At least at USC--where students and faculty are required to be vaccinated and to obtain booster shots except for very narrow exceptions--it is hard to doubt that associations between education and vaccination are causal.