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Cognitive Health of Older Indians: Individual and Geographic Determinants of Female Disadvantage

  • Jinkook Lee
  • Regina A. Shih
  • Kevin Feeney
  • Kenneth M. Langa
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    India is experiencing a rapid demographic and epidemiologic transition. Among a growing aging population, non-communicable diseases, including dementia, are increasingly prevalent, but our understanding of cognitive health is quite limited. Recent studies suggest that women in developed countries perform as well or better than men on cognitive functioning tests, though research from developing countries shows the opposite. This gender disparity in developing settings may be attributable to that fact that women are traditionally not given equal access to education, health services, economic opportunity, and social engagement. Furthermore, in countries such as India, discrimination against women may play a role in the gender disparity. To address this issue, the authors examine cognitive function of older Indians, using cross-sectional data from the 2010 pilot round of the Longitudinal Aging Study in India, fielded across Punjab and Rajasthan in the north and Kerala and Karnataka in the south. They found gender disparities in cognitive function and suggest that female cognitive disadvantage could be explained by disparities in education, health and social engagement in southern India. However, female disadvantage persisted in northern states where discrimination against women has been notably acute even after controlling for education and other key risk factors of poor cognitive function.

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    File URL: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2011/RAND_WR889.pdf
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    Paper provided by RAND Corporation Publications Department in its series Working Papers with number 889.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:889
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    1. James P. Smith & John Strauss & Xiaoyan Lei & Albert Park & Yan Shen & James P. Smith & Zhe Yang & Yaohui Zhao, 2010. "Health Outcomes and Socio-Economic Status Among the Elderly in China: Evidence from the CHARLS Pilot," Working Papers 774, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
    2. Oster, Emily, 2009. "Does increased access increase equality? Gender and child health investments in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 62-76, May.
    3. J├╝rgen Maurer, 2011. "Education and Male-Female Differences in Later-Life Cognition: International Evidence From Latin America and the Caribbean," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(3), pages 915-930, August.
    4. McDonough, Peggy & Walters, Vivienne, 2001. "Gender and health: reassessing patterns and explanations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 547-559, February.
    5. Mitra, Aparna, 2008. "The status of women among the scheduled tribes in India," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 1202-1217, June.
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