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Does schooling improve cognitive functioning at older ages?

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Abstract

We study the relationship between education and cognitive functioning at older ages by exploiting compulsory schooling reforms, implemented in six European countries during the 1950s and 1960s. Using data of individuals aged 50+ from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we assess the causal effect of education on old-age memory, fluency, numeracy, orientation and dementia. We find a positive impact of schooling on memory. One year of education increases the delayed memory score by about 0.3, which amounts to 16% of the standard deviation. Furthermore, for women, we find that more education reduces the risk of dementia.

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  • Nicole Schneeweis & Vegard Skirbekk & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012. "Does schooling improve cognitive functioning at older ages?," NRN working papers 2012-11, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2012_11
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    1. Giorgio Brunello & Margherita Fort & Guglielmo Weber, 2009. "Changes in Compulsory Schooling, Education and the Distribution of Wages in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 516-539, March.
    2. Nicole Schneeweis & Vegard Skirbekk & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012. "Does schooling improve cognitive functioning at older ages?," NRN working papers 2012-11, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    3. Kathleen A. Cagney & Diane S. Lauderdale, 2002. "Education, Wealth, and Cognitive Function in Later Life," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 57(2), pages 163-172.
    4. M. Fort & N. Schneeweis & R. Winter-Ebmer, 2011. "More Schooling, More Children: Compulsory Schooling Reforms and Fertility in Europe," Working Papers wp787, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    5. Garrouste, Christelle, 2010. "100 years of educational reforms in Europe: a contextual database," MPRA Paper 31853, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Jürgen Maurer, 2011. "Education and Male-Female Differences in Later-Life Cognition: International Evidence From Latin America and the Caribbean," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(3), pages 915-930, August.
    7. SandraE. Black & PaulJ. Devereux & KjellG. Salvanes, 2008. "Staying in the Classroom and out of the maternity ward? The effect of compulsory schooling laws on teenage births," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 1025-1054, July.
    8. Giorgio Brunello & Daniele Fabbri & Margherita Fort, 2013. "The Causal Effect of Education on Body Mass: Evidence from Europe," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 195-223.
    9. Torberg Falch & Sofia Sandgren Massih, 2011. "The Effect Of Education On Cognitive Ability," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(3), pages 838-856, July.
    10. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ethan G. Lewis, 2006. "Schooling and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test: Evidence from School-Entry Laws," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
    11. James Banks & Fabrizio Mazzonna, 2012. "The Effect of Education on Old Age Cognitive Abilities: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(560), pages 418-448, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicole Schneeweis & Vegard Skirbekk & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012. "Does schooling improve cognitive functioning at older ages?," Economics working papers 2012-11, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    2. Carlsen, Fredrik & Kaarboe, Oddvar Martin, 2015. "The relationship between educational attainment and waiting time among the elderly in Norway," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 119(11), pages 1450-1458.
    3. Bassetti, Thomas & Rebba, Vincenzo, 2015. "Getting to the Roots of Long-Term Care Needs: A Regression Tree Analysis," MPRA Paper 66167, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Daniel A. Kamhöfer & Hendrik Schmitz, 2013. "Analyzing Zero Returns to Education in Germany: Heterogeneous Effects and Skill Formation," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 598, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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    Keywords

    Compulsory schooling; Instrumental Variables; Education; Cognitive functioning; Memory; Aging; Dementia;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination

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