A Different World

Issac Bailey blog: South Carolina forfeits chance to improve graduation rate while refusing to extend Medicaid to poor residents

Issac Bailey, The Sun News   Photo by Steve Jessmore
Issac Bailey, The Sun News Photo by Steve Jessmore

An under-appreciated aspect of South Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid to 289,000 poor South Carolinians, including 13,000 veterans, is that there’s real evidence that Medicaid can help the state with its other most glaring problem, that found in the education of our children.

Medicaid can help lower dropout rates and increase graduation rates, which is something this poor state needs desperately.

Here’s a link to an explainer about what it means to poor people in the roughly two dozen states who haven’t expanded Medicaid yet:


And here’s an explainer about the research showing that Medicaid can improve educational attainment by increasing people’s access to our health care system:


From that piece:

Education policymakers and teachers regularly argue this. But researchers at Cornell and Harvard have found particularly convincing evidence that it's true. In a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Sarah Cohodes, Samuel Kleiner, Michael F. Lovenheim and Daniel Grossman found that the expansion of public health care to many more children in the 1980s and 1990s produced long-term educational benefits.

Evidence across states that rolled out more generous programs at different times suggests that expanded access to public health care led to lower high school dropout rates, increased college attendance and more bachelor's degrees. The effects were large and consistent across the country. And they bolster both the underlying idea that health is an important input to education, and the policy argument that investments in public health care yield cascading benefits.

Specifically, the researchers found that a 10 percentage point increase in Medicaid eligibility among children in a state translated into a 5.2 percent decline in high school dropouts (among all students), a 1.1 percent increase in college attendance, and a 3.2 percent increase in students completing bachelor's degrees. Over the period of time the researchers studied, states increased their Medicaid eligibility by on average 24 percentage points (for example, from covering 5 percent of children in a state to 29 percent). That's the equivalent of reducing high-school dropouts in the long run by 12.5 percent and increasing college enrollment by 2.6 percent.