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

29 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2010

See all articles by David W. Johnston

David W. Johnston

Monash University

Michael Nicholls

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Manisha Shah

UCLA Department of Public Policy; NBER

Michael A. Shields

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

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.

Keywords: handedness, children, health, cognitive development, family fixed-effects

JEL Classification: I12, J10

Suggested Citation

Johnston, David W. and Nicholls, Michael and Shah, Manisha and Shields, Michael A., Handedness, Health and Cognitive Development: Evidence from Children in the NLSY. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4774. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1556562

Michael Nicholls

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Manisha Shah

UCLA Department of Public Policy ( email )

Box 951656
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656
United States

HOME PAGE: http://publicaffairs.ucla.edu/manisha-shah

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Michael A. Shields

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

Victoria 3010, 3010
Australia
+61 3 8344 4656 (Phone)
+61 3 8344 6899 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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