Chicken or Egg? Education, Income or Health?

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How do you decide which came first; the chicken or the egg? I’ve had multiple opportunities to debate with people in Buncombe County about which is more important to a successful life; one’s education, income or health. There are very impassioned and energetic views on all sides.

There are predictors that link these three areas: Likelihood of graduating from high school goes up with higher family income; Parents’ education level indicates children’s education level; Poor health or poor access to health care can lead to poor performance in school.

There are also results that link them: Higher education levels lead to better income. Better income leads to better access to health care and thus better health. Failure to finish high school is connected to low income and poor health.

  • Some will argue that education is the basis for a good life. But the reasons a child or youth does not do well in school can range from being homeless, hungry, abused, and sick to simply not able to get to school or encouraged to do well in school.
  • Others will say good health defines one’s life and if you feel good, you can do well in school and on the job. But without a good income people don’t have good access to health care. And a lack of education will impact one’s income.
  • And then there is the argument that with enough income, one can take care of everything. It is sorely tempting to accept that line of reasoning…if one only had the money; one could get good health care and get a quality education. But a high income can hide other needs. Know any wealthy adults who are barely literate? I do. They spend an enormous amount of energy (and money) hiding their failings – getting around having to read, using staff to do their math, etc. They can become very distrusting simply because they aren’t sure what they are being told is true or accurate and they can’t determine that for themselves. And good health is never a guarantee no matter how much money one has.

So, in recognizing that education, income and health are all twisted up together, we are broadening our blogs in 2014.

We spent the past two years focusing on education because there is so much interest and passion around it. Next year you will see more discussion about health and income, connections to education, and work that is underway to come at these three overlapping issues in creative ways.

Please check out our 2014 blogs. Share your ideas and opinions. Talk about these issues with friends, coworkers and family. We learned from our Community Conversations that most people believe everyone should have a chance at a good life. What needs to happen in this community to make those chances available?


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