, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 2045–2070 | Cite as

Longevity and Lifespan Variation by Educational Attainment in Spain: 1960–2015

  • Iñaki PermanyerEmail author
  • Jeroen Spijker
  • Amand Blanes
  • Elisenda Renteria


For a long time, studies of socioeconomic gradients in health have limited their attention to between-group comparisons. Yet, ignoring the differences that might exist within groups and focusing on group-specific life expectancy levels and trends alone, one might arrive at overly simplistic conclusions. Using data from the Spanish Encuesta Sociodemográfica and recently released mortality files by the Spanish Statistical Office (INE), this is the first study to simultaneously document (1) the gradient in life expectancy by educational attainment groups, and (2) the inequality in age-at-death distributions within and across those groups for the period between 1960 and 2015 in Spain. Our findings suggest that life expectancy has been increasing for all education groups but particularly among the highly educated. We observe diverging trends in life expectancy, with the differences between the low- and highly educated becoming increasingly large, particularly among men. Concomitantly with increasing disparities across groups, length-of-life inequality has decreased for the population as a whole and for most education groups, and the contribution of the between-group component of inequality to overall inequality has been extremely small. Even if between-group inequality has increased over time, its contribution has been too small to have sizable effects on overall inequality. In addition, our results suggest that education expansion and declining within-group variability might have been the main drivers of overall lifespan inequality reductions. Nevertheless, the diverging trends in longevity and lifespan inequality across education groups represent an important phenomenon whose underlying causes and potential implications should be investigated in detail.


Life expectancy Lifespan variation Educational disparities in mortality Gender disparities Spain 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC-2014-StG-637768, EQUALIZE project); the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness Ramón y Cajal and Juan de la Cierva Research Grant Programs (RYC-2013-14196, RYC-2013-14851 and JdlC-I-2014-21178); and the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, National R&D&I Plan CRISFAM (CSO2015-64713-R). Amand Blanes acknowledges support from the CSO2016-77449-R R+D project.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iñaki Permanyer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeroen Spijker
    • 1
  • Amand Blanes
    • 1
  • Elisenda Renteria
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre d’Estudis DemogràficsCarrer de Ca n’AltayóCerdanyola del VallèsSpain

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