College of Liberal Arts | Spring 2021

Education makes a difference

Educational attainment has a long-term effect on health. As it turns out, your children’s educational achievements can also make a difference.

Rather than limit his research to the impact of parents’ educational attainment and the resulting financial impact it had on the quality of their lives, sociology associate professor Shawn Bauldry adds their children into the equation.

His goal: Determine the extent that children’s educational success benefits their parents late in the life course.

“How well your children do in terms of how far they go in their educational careers is associated with their parents’ health,” Bauldry said. “Later in life, we’re at a period in the life course where people might be retiring, might be experiencing more health problems, might be starting to engage with the healthcare system a bit more, and, at that point in time, your own resources might not be as important as your children’s resources and what they can bring to help you.”

Increased economic resources are the most obvious factor allowing educated children to better assist their aging parents, Bauldry said, but there are other ways they may also be of assistance.

“More educated children might be better able to assist a parent who is suffering from some illness to understand the illness, to navigate the healthcare system, and to address the issue,” Bauldry said. “It’s a complex system.”

Bauldry’s research fits into the broader conversation about health and longevity that will occur during Purdue’s 150th anniversary Ideas Festival over the next year. Much of that conversation will likely center around scientific innovation, but Bauldry also encourages us to think broadly about quality-of-life issues.

“What are the things that affect lots of people? Or how can we take technological developments that only a few individuals are using and extend them? Those sorts of questions are harder,” Bauldry said. “I think we spend more time and resources trying to find the newest form of intervention or treatments for a specific diseases. But expanding access to these developments to the broader population is also an important piece.”