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Better educated individuals live longer, healthier lives than those with less education, and their children are more likely to thrive. This is true even when factors like income are taken into account. 

Why Is Education Important to Health?

More schooling is linked to higher incomes, better employment options, and increased social support that, together, support opportunities for healthier choices. Yet in 2022, about 9% of adults older than 24 had less than a high school diploma or equivalent, and 28% of adults older than 24 have high school as their highest level of school completion1. As of 2018, 18% of Americans had low literacy2. Many more also lack health literacy, making it difficult to navigate health care. 

Higher levels of education can lead to a greater sense of control over one’s life, which is linked to better health, healthier lifestyle decisions, and fewer chronic conditions3. Education is also connected to lifespan: on average, college graduates live nine more years than those who disenroll from high school4.  

Researchers estimate that each additional year of schooling leads to about 11% more income annually. Higher paying jobs are more likely than lower paying jobs to provide workers with safe work environments and offer benefits such as health insurance and sick leave. More educated workers also fare better in economic downturns3.  

Parental education is linked to children’s health and educational attainment. Children whose mothers graduated from college are twice as likely to live past their first birthday. Stress and poor health early in life, more common among those whose parents have lower levels of education, have been linked to decreased cognitive development, increased tobacco and drug use, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and other conditions3.   

Communities and educators can work together to increase educational attainment for children and adults, better preparing the individuals and families of today and tomorrow to live long, healthy lives. 


1 US Department of Commerce. Census Bureau Releases New Educational Attainment Data: Press Release Number CB23-TPS.21.  US Bureau of the Census; 2023. 

2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC): Full selection of indicators. Washington, DC: OECD Publishing; 2017-18.  

3 Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health. Why education matters to health: Exploring the Causes. Brief No. 1; 2015 

4 Center on Society and Health. Education: It matters more to health than ever before. Richmond: Center on Society and Health, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); 2014. 


Our Rankings show how healthy a community is as well as indicators for future health. This provides a starting point for action on improving health for all. Dig deeper into the measures below to learn more about our approaches to measuring health.

The extent to which students within different race and ethnicity groups are unevenly distributed across schools when compared with the racial and ethnic composition of the local population. The index ranges from 0 to 1 with lower values representing a school composition that approximates race and ethnicity distributions in the student populations within the county, and higher values representing more segregation.
The average gap in dollars between actual and required spending per pupil among public school districts. Required spending is an estimate of dollars needed to achieve U.S. average test scores in each district.