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Handedness, Health and Cognitive Development: Evidence from Children in the NLSY

Author

Listed:
  • Johnston, David W.

    () (Monash University)

  • Nicholls, Michael E. R.

    () (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

  • Shah, Manisha

    () (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Shields, Michael A.

    () (Monash University)

Abstract

Using data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, and fitting family fixed-effects models of child health and cognitive development, we test if left-handed children do significantly worse than their right-handed counterparts. The health measures cover both physical and mental health, and the cognitive development test scores span (1) Memory, (2) Vocabulary, (3) Mathematics, (4) Reading and (5) Comprehension. We find that while left-handed children have a significantly higher probability of suffering an injury needing medical attention, there is no difference in their experience of illness or poor mental health. We also find that left-handed children have significantly lower cognitive development test scores than right-handed children for all areas of development with the exception of reading. Moreover, the left-handedness disadvantage is larger for boys than girls, and remains roughly constant as children grow older for most outcomes. We also find that the probability of a child being left-handed is not related to the socioeconomic characteristics of the family, such as income or maternal education. All these results tend to support a difference in brain functioning or neurological explanation for handedness differentials rather than one based on left-handed children living in a right-handed world.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnston, David W. & Nicholls, Michael E. R. & Shah, Manisha & Shields, Michael A., 2010. "Handedness, Health and Cognitive Development: Evidence from Children in the NLSY," IZA Discussion Papers 4774, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4774
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul Frijters & David W. Johnston & Manisha Shah & Michael A. Shields, 2009. "To Work or Not to Work? Child Development and Maternal Labor Supply," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 97-110, July.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1989:79:8:1040-1041_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kevin Denny, 2008. "Handedness and depression, evidence from a large population survey," Working Papers 200815, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    4. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile, 2003. "Socioeconomic Status and Child Health: Why Is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1813-1823, December.
    5. Christopher S. Ruebeck & Joseph E. Harrington, Jr & Robert Moffitt, 1997. "Handedness and Earnings," Economics Working Paper Archive 533, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics, revised Jun 2004.
    6. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
    7. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2008. "Maternal employment and adolescent development," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 958-983, October.
    8. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    9. Johnston, David W. & Shah, Manisha & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Handedness, Time Use and Early Childhood Development," IZA Discussion Papers 2752, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Laura Argys & H. Peters & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn & Judith Smith, 1998. "The impact of child support on cognitive outcomes of young children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(2), pages 159-173, May.
    11. Kevin Denny & Vincent O’ Sullivan, 2007. "The Economic Consequences of Being Left-Handed: Some Sinister Results," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
    12. Susanne James-Burdumy, 2005. "The Effect of Maternal Labor Force Participation on Child Development," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 177-211, January.
    13. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect Of Income On Child Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 261-276, May.
    14. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2008. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 499-532, June.
    15. Blau, Francine D & Grossberg, Adam J, 1992. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 474-481, August.
    16. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
    17. Alison Aughinbaugh & Maury Gittleman, 2003. "Does Money Matter?: A Comparison of the Effect of Income on Child Development in the United States and Great Britain," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Frijters & David Johnston & Manisha Shah & Michael Shields, 2013. "Intrahousehold Resource Allocation: Do Parents Reduce or Reinforce Child Ability Gaps?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 2187-2208, December.
    2. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Shah, Manisha & Shields, Michael A., 2010. "Intra-household Resource Allocation: Do Parents Reduce or Reinforce Child Cognitive Ability Gaps?," IZA Discussion Papers 5153, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    handedness; children; health; cognitive development; family fixed-effects;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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