Stuart Jay Olshansky, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues found while education and its socioeconomic benefits pay off, the absence of an education takes a heavy toll on survival.
The study, published in Health Affairs, found white men and women with fewer than 12 years of education experienced dramatic declines in life expectancy since 1990 while their black counterparts experienced modest increases.
"At the extremes, white men with 16 years of education could expect to live 14.2 more years than black men with fewer than 12 years schooling," the study said. "Likewise, white women with 16 years of education could expect to live 10.3 more years than black women with fewer than 12 years of school."
Olshansky said policymakers should enhance education for all races and ages as a mechanism to address this severe health disparity.