IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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

  • 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)

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4774.

in new window

Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A (Statistics in Society), 2012, [Online First]
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4774
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. 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 474-81, August.
  2. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Maternal Employment and Adolescent Development," NBER Working Papers 10691, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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, 06.
  7. 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.
  8. Laura Argys & H. Peters & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn & Judith Smith, 1998. "The impact of child support on cognitive outcomes of young children," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 159-173, May.
  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. 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.
  11. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  12. Kevin Denny, 2008. "Handedness and depression, evidence from a large population survey," Working Papers 200815, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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).
  16. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4774. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.