Health Endowments, Schooling Allocation in the Family, and Longevity: Evidence from US Twins

Peter A. Savelyev, William & Mary
Benjamin Ward
Robert F. Krueger
Matt McGue


We analyze data from the Minnesota Twin Registry (MTR) and the Socioeconomic Survey of Twins (SST), combined with new mortality data, and contribute to two bodies of literature. First, we demonstrate a beneficial casual effect of education on health and longevity. Literature results on this subject based on natural experiments and twin studies are controversial despite a long history of research. Second, we shed light on how families allocate resources among siblings, another controversial question. We show that if one twin has a poorer health endowment parents will compensate for the difference with more schooling. We argue that we can expect a bias towards detecting a reinforcement case. Despite the bias we still find evidence of compensating behavior. For identification, we rely on identical genes in monozygotic twins, gene variation in dizygotic twins, and shared family background in all twins, and control for the key background characteristics of birth weight and disabling injury. We account for measurement error in reported years of schooling.