264650 Price of a lost education: How education affects hunger, housing, wealth, and health

Monday, October 29, 2012

Benjamin Evans, MHSA , Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Steven Woolf, MD , Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Family Medicine, Fairfax, VA
Emily Zimmerman, PhD , Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Carrie Thompson, MPA , Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Xiaoyan Deng , Department of Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Objective: To examine and quantify the degree to which low educational attainment impacts the prevalence of societal distress.

Methods: Using microdata from the most up to date and accurate national data sources available from reputable agencies (e.g. U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we determined the prevalence of distress in housing, health, income and food security based on the educational attainment level of the respondent. Statistics on the prevalence of poor educational attainment, its trends, and its determinants will also be presented.

Results: Adults without a high school education were five times more likely to live in a food insecure household, more than twice as likely to live in a household with moderate to severe physical problems, and more than four times more likely to report fair or poor health status compared to adults with a bachelor's degree. In addition, adults without a high school education had a median net worth that was less than 12% that of adults with a bachelor's degree. While the percentage of adults graduating from high school continues to increase, attainment gaps between racial, ethnic, and economic groups persist.

Conclusions: Adults with less education are poorer, sicker, and face food and housing insecurity at levels far beyond better educated Americans. Arguments for the importance of improving educational attainment can be made from a variety of perspectives as education has such far-reaching impact, from welfare dependency to crime prevention.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Quantify the prevalence of low educational attainment. 2. Identify the key determinants of low educational attainment. 3. Discuss the implications of low educational attainment for individuals and the United States

Keywords: Education, Social Inequalities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the coordinator of the Project on Societal Distress upon which the research for this abstract is based. I have presented on on this topic and others related to the social determinants of health at APHA conferences in the past. I am a contributing author to the published brief on the topic of the cost of low educational attainment that was issued by the Center in December of 2011.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.