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Educational inequalities in life expectancy: measures, mapping, meaning
  1. Christian Dudel1,2,3,
  2. Alyson A van Raalte1,3
  1. 1Max-Planck-Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany
  2. 2Federal Institute for Population Research, Wiesbaden, Germany
  3. 3Max Planck – University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christian Dudel, Max-Planck-Institute for Demographic Research, 18057 Rostock, Germany; dudel{at}

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Individuals with low socioeconomic status have, on average, a shorter lifespan than individuals with high socioeconomic status. These inequalities are found across the globe; they are large; and they are persistent over time. Socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy are a key challenge of modern societies. They are both a cause and a consequence of unequal opportunities, and they have far-reaching consequences at both the individual and the societal level. For instance, they are a serious concern for the equitable design of pension policies, as individuals with high socioeconomic status spend more time in retirement and receive pensions for a longer time.1

Inequalities in life expectancy by education have long been a focus of epidemiological and demographic research, as education is comparatively straightforward to measure, it is fixed from early adulthood and precedes other markers of attained socioeconomic status such as income or wealth, and it is a strong predictor of the overall socioeconomic status.2 Trends in educational inequalities in mortality are heterogeneous across countries. The gap between the lowest and highest educated has increased in some countries and decreased in others.3

The paper by Zazueta-Borboa et al4 provides an important contribution to our understanding of these changing inequalities. Using high-quality register data from three European countries (England/Wales, Finland and Italy represented with data from Turin), it assesses long-term trends in the …

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  • Contributors CD and AAvR conceptualised, drafted and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.