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Economic conditions at the time of birth and cognitive abilities late in life: evidence from eleven European countries

Author

Listed:
  • Doblhammer, Gabriele

    (University of Rostock)

  • van den Berg, Gerard J.

    () (IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation)

  • Fritze, Thomas

    (German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE))

Abstract

With ageing populations and a stronger reliance on individual financial decision-making concerning asset portfolios, retirement schemes, pensions and insurances, it becomes increasingly important to understand the determinants of cognitive ability among the elderly. To study effects of the early-life economic environment, macro-economic fluctuations may be used. In European countries, about three to four economic recession and boom periods occurred between 1900 and 1945. The timing of these periods differs across countries. We apply data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) among elderly individuals. This survey is homogeneous across countries. We use almost 20,000 respondents from 11 countries. We examine several domains of cognitive functioning at ages 60+ and link them to the macro-economic deviations in the year of birth, controlling for demographic, socioeconomic and health status. We find that economic conditions at birth significantly influence cognitive functioning late in life in various domains. The effects are particularly pronounced among the less educated. Recessions negatively influence numeracy and verbal fluency as well as the score on the omnibus cognitive indicator. The results are robust; controlling for current characteristics does not change effect sizes and significance. We discuss possible causal pathways.

Suggested Citation

  • Doblhammer, Gabriele & van den Berg, Gerard J. & Fritze, Thomas, 2011. "Economic conditions at the time of birth and cognitive abilities late in life: evidence from eleven European countries," Working Paper Series 2011:14, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2011_014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Angelini, V. & Mierau, J. O., 2015. "Late-Life Health Effects of Teenage Motherhood," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 15/09, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. Scholte, Robert S. & van den Berg, Gerard J. & Lindeboom, Maarten, 2015. "Long-run effects of gestation during the Dutch Hunger Winter famine on labor market and hospitalization outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 17-30.
    3. Beck, Audrey N. & Finch, Brian K. & Lin, Shih-Fan & Hummer, Robert A. & Masters, Ryan K., 2014. "Racial disparities in self-rated health: Trends, explanatory factors, and the changing role of socio-demographics," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 163-177.
    4. Guven, Cahit & Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2015. "Height, aging and cognitive abilities across Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 16-29.
    5. Axel H. Börsch-Supan & Michela Coppola & Anette Reil-Held, 2012. "Riester Pensions in Germany: Design, Dynamics, Targetting Success and Crowding-In," NBER Working Papers 18014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Angelini, Viola & Mierau, Jochen O., 2014. "Born at the right time? Childhood health and the business cycle," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 35-43.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cognition; economic business cycle; developmental origins; health; long-run effects; dementia; numeracy; memory; decision-making;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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