This discussion paper led to a publication in 'Journal of Health Economics', 2015, 42, 29-43.
We aim to disentangle the relative contributions of (i) cognitive ability, and (ii) education on health and mortality using a structural equation model suggested by Conti et al. (2010). We extend their model by allowing for a duration dependent variable, and an ordinal educational variable. Data come from a Dutch cohort born around 1940, including detailed measures of cognitive ability and family background at age 12. The data are subsequently linked to the mortality register 1995-2011, such that we observe mortality between ages 55 and 75. The results suggest that the treatment effect of education(i.e. the effect of entering secondary school as opposed to leaving school after primary education) is positive and amounts to a 4 years gain in life expectancy, on average. Decomposition results suggest that the raw survival differences between educational groups are about equally split between a 'treatment effect' of education, and a 'selection effect' on basis of cognitive ability and family background.