Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2018:5: Could Easier Access to University Improve Health and Reduce Health Inequalities?

Gawain Heckley (), Martin Nordin () and Ulf-G. Gerdtham ()
Additional contact information
Gawain Heckley: Health Economics Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University
Martin Nordin: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Ulf-G. Gerdtham: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: This paper estimates the impact of university education on medical care use and its income related inequality. We do this by exploiting an arbitrary university eligibility rule in Sweden combined with regression discontinuity design for the years 2003-2013 for students who graduated 2003-2005. We find a clear jump in university attendance due to university eligibility. This jump coincides with a positive jump in prescriptions for contraceptives for females but also a positive jump in mental health related hospital admissions for males. Analysis of the inequality impact of tertiary eligibility finds no clear impact on medical care use by socioeconomic status of the parents. The results imply that easing access to university for the lower ability student will lead to an increase in contraceptive use without increasing its socioeconomic related inequality. At the same time, the results highlight that universities may need to do more to take care of the mental health of their least able students.

Keywords: Health returns to education; demand for medical care; causes of health inequality; Regression Discontinuity Design; Concentration Index

JEL-codes: I12; I14; I26

41 pages, March 13, 2018

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