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Does Mental Productivity Decline with Age? Evidence from Chess Players


  • Bertoni, Marco

    () (University of Padova)

  • Brunello, Giorgio

    () (University of Padova)

  • Rocco, Lorenzo

    () (University of Padova)


We use data on international chess tournaments to study the relationship between age and mental productivity in a brain-intensive profession. We show that less talented players tend to leave the game in the earliest phases of their career. When the effects of age on productivity vary with unobserved ability, commonly used fixed effects estimators applied to raw data do not guarantee consistent estimates of age-productivity profiles. In our data, this method strongly over-estimates the productivity of older players. We apply fixed effects to first-differenced data and show that productivity peaks in the early forties and smoothly declines thereafter. Because of this, players aged 60 are 11 percent less productive than players in their early forties.

Suggested Citation

  • Bertoni, Marco & Brunello, Giorgio & Rocco, Lorenzo, 2013. "Does Mental Productivity Decline with Age? Evidence from Chess Players," IZA Discussion Papers 7311, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7311

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    productivity; mental ability; aging;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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