A four-year college degree is now a key for longer life in the US, becoming a more potent factor than race in determining lifespan, a recent study found.

The study, published Monday on the National Academy of Sciences, showed that white and Black people who earned a bachelor’s degree “experienced an overall increase in their average adult life expectancy between 2010 and 2018.”

The “education gap” in life expectancy more than doubled 1990-2018 for both races, while the race-based differences decreased by 70%.

For Black people, a college degree means 3.6 more expected years of life in 2018 and for white people, it is 3.5 years, both increased from 1990’s 1.4 and 1.6 years, respectively.

“The importance of having a BA [Bachelor of Arts] has been increasing, while the importance of the color of your skin seems to be diminishing,” said researcher Angus Deaton, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Center for Health Policy and Economics.

Noting that about one-third of Americans have a four-year college degree, Deaton said: “The gap between Blacks and Whites is narrowing, and the gaps between people who do and do not have a four-year college degree are widening.”

He showed diminishing economic opportunities afforded to people who do not go to college as a cause of this “education gap.”

The study focused on adult life expectancy, including people between ages 25 and 75, and combined federal death certificate data with population survey results to calculate mortality rates.

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