Causal Effects of Education on Longevity: Evidence from African Americans in Jim Crow Mississippi

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


This proposed study will provide new, rigorous evidence on the effects of education on longevity. To begin, we will digitize the Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, an administrative census of every child in the state of Mississippi performed biennially from 1927-1957, with additional sporadic coverage from 1906-1927 and 1957-1965. These records allow us to observe family structure, contemporaneous school enrollment status, school of attendance, educational attainment, and location of residence for every child in Mississippi. We will then link these to death records from family trees from FamilySearch, allowing us to observe the education history and death of most of our sample, especially for older cohorts. Given this novel dataset, we will then make use of school construction instruments (e.g. Rosenwald schools; Aaronson and Mazumder 2011) and school finance instruments (e.g. Jeanes fund; Kreisman 2017) as exogenous shocks to the educational attainment and education quality of Black students in Mississippi. Previous work on education and longevity has been limited to descriptive work (e.g. Lleras-Muney, Price, and Yue 2020) and studies using within-sibling-pair identification (e.g. Behrman et al. 2011); our study will provide the first evidence on the causal effect of education on longevity in the United States that fully circumvents both reverse causation concerns and selection issues that exist in this area.