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Gender Differences in Cognition among Older Adults in China

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  • Xiaoyan Lei
  • Yuqing Hu
  • James P. Smith
  • Yahao Zhao

Abstract

In this paper, the authors model gender differences in cognitive ability in China using a new sample of middle-aged and older Chinese respondents. Modeled after the American Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), the CHARLS Pilot survey respondents are 45 years and older in two quite distinct provinces—Zhejiang a high growth industrialized province on the East Coast, and Gansu, a largely agricultural and poor Province in the West. Their measures of cognition in CHARLS relies on two measures that proxy for different dimensions of adult cognition—episodic memory and intact mental status. They relate both these childhood health measures to adult health and SES outcomes during the adult years. They find large cognitive differences to the detriment of women that were mitigated by large gender differences in education among these generations of Chinese people. These gender differences in cognition are especially concentrated within poorer communities in China with gender difference being more sensitive to community level attributes than to family level attributes, with economic resources. In traditional poor Chinese communities, there are strong economic incentives to favor boys at the expense of girls not only in their education outcomes, but in their nutrition and eventually their adult height. These gender cognitive differences have been steadily decreasing across birth cohorts as the economy of China grew rapidly. Among younger cohorts of young adults in China, there is no longer any gender disparity in cognitive ability.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by RAND Corporation Publications Department in its series Working Papers with number 881.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:881

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  1. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
  2. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  3. William L. Parish & Robert J. Willis, 1993. "Daughters, Education, and Family Budgets Taiwan Experiences," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(4), pages 863-898.
  4. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 27, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  5. Strauss, John & Lei, Xiaoyan & Park, Albert & Shen, Yan & Smith, James P. & Yang, Zhe & Zhao, Yaohui, 2010. "Health Outcomes and Socio-Economic Status among the Elderly in China: Evidence from the CHARLS Pilot," IZA Discussion Papers 5152, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Gary S. Becker & William H. J. Hubbard & Kevin M. Murphy, 2010. "Explaining the Worldwide Boom in Higher Education of Women," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 203 - 241.
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Cited by:
  1. Huang, Wei & Zhou, Yi, 2013. "Effects of education on cognition at older ages: Evidence from China's Great Famine," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 54-62.

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