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Racial Disparities in the Cognition-Health Relationship

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  • Owen Thompson

    ()
    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Abstract

This paper investigates how the association between cognitive achievement and self-rated health in middle age differs by race, and attempts to explain these differences. The role of cognition in health determination has received only limited empirical attention, and even less is known about how race may affect this relationship. Using data from the NLSY, I find that while whites with higher cognitive achievement scores tend to report substantially better general health, this relationship is far weaker or wholly absent among blacks. Further tests suggest that about 35% of this racial difference can be explained by behavioral decisions during adulthood, and that another portion of the disparity may trace back to prenatal and early childhood experiences. The paper closes by noting that its results are broadly consistent with explanations of the racial health gap that emphasize entrenched forms of racial discrimination. JEL Categories:

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics in its series UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers with number 2011-02.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ums:papers:2011-02

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Keywords: Cognition; Health; Race; AFQT; Birth Weight;

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References

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  1. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2006. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19425, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  3. Susanne Schennach & James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," 2007 Meeting Papers 973, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Derek A. Neal & William R. Johnson, 1995. "The Role of Pre-Market Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," NBER Working Papers 5124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael Baker & Mark Stabile & Catherine Deri, 2001. "What do Self-Reported, Objective, Measures of Health Measure?," NBER Working Papers 8419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
  7. Hartog, Joop & Oosterbeek, Hessel, 1998. "Health, wealth and happiness: why pursue a higher education?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 245-256, June.
  8. M. Christopher Auld & Nirmal Sidhu, 2004. "Schooling, cognitive ability, and health," HEW 0406001, EconWPA.
  9. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
  10. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," NBER Working Papers 8344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. James J. Heckman, 2007. "The Economics, Technology and Neuroscience of Human Capability Formation," NBER Working Papers 13195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. William Rodgers & William Spriggs, 1996. "What does the AFQT really measure: Race, wages, schooling and the AFQT score," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 13-46, June.
  13. Kenkel, Donald S, 1991. "Health Behavior, Health Knowledge, and Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 287-305, April.
  14. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding Differences in Health Behaviors by Education," Scholarly Articles 5344195, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Nepomnyaschy, Lenna, 2010. "Race disparities in low birth weight in the U.S. south and the rest of the nation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 684-691, March.
  16. Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A. & Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M., 2007. "Childhood Economic Conditions and Length of Life: Evidence from the UK Boyd Orr Cohort, 1937–2005," IZA Discussion Papers 3042, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
  18. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
  19. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1.
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Cited by:
  1. John Ham & Daniela Iorio & Michelle Sovinsky, 2012. "Race, Social Class, and Bulimia Nervosa," Working Papers 2012-016, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  2. Goeree, Michelle S. & Ham, John C. & Iorio, Daniela, 2011. "Race, Social Class, and Bulimia Nervosa," IZA Discussion Papers 5823, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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