Understanding the Mechanisms Linking Cognitive Skills, Socioemotional Skills, and College Education with Longevity

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Date and Time: 
Monday, January 25, 2016
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Peter Savelyev
Vanderbilt University

We go beyond estimating the effects of cognitive skills, socioemotional skills, and college attainment on longevity by uncovering the mechanisms behind these effects. The uncovered mechanisms support claims in the literature about the causal effects of skills and education on longevity. Each effect is decomposed with respect to a large set of potential observed mediators including health behaviors, lifestyles, earnings, work conditions, and health stock at the start of the risk period. Our estimates based on the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study show that more than 50% of the effects of skills and education on longevity are explained by observable mediators, among which smoking, earnings, and marriage are the strongest. Furthermore, we
find that for women, the positive effects of skills and education on longevity have been historically masked by the negative effect of education on marriage. An adjustment for the relationship between education and marriage based on data for more recent cohorts substantially increases the estimated effect of education on longevity for women. We discuss the implications for policies aimed at improving health and longevity and reducing health inequality.