Great Famine, Formal Education and Cognitive Aging: Evidence from CHARLA Data

Wei Huang, Harvard University
Yi Zhou, University of California, Berkeley

In this article, we study the effects of education on cognition in later life. We find that respondents who finished primary school performed significantly better in cognitive tests than those who did not. The effects of education remain significantly positive, even after controlling for variables such as standard of living, health behavior and the community environment. We use China’s Great Famine from 1959-1961 as an instrument to investigate the causality between education and cognition because everyday lives and normal school operations were severely disrupted during this time. The IV estimation finds that respondents who were of primary school age were 12.4% less likely to finish primary school, and results from the two-stage estimates suggest that causal links exist between education and cognition.

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Presented in Session 58: Cognition and Aging