Gender Differences in Cognition Among Older Adults in China

35 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2011

See all articles by Xiaoyan Lei

Xiaoyan Lei

Peking University - CCER

Yuqing Hu

affiliation not provided to SSRN

John J. McArdle

University of Southern California - College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

James P. Smith

RAND Corporation; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Yaohui Zhao

Peking University

Date Written: October 6, 2011

Abstract

In this paper, the authors model gender differences in cognitive ability in China using a new sample of middle-aged and older Chinese respondents. Modeled after the American Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), the CHARLS Pilot survey respondents are 45 years and older in two quite distinct provinces — Zhejiang a high growth industrialized province on the East Coast, and Gansu, a largely agricultural and poor Province in the West. Their measures of cognition in CHARLS relies on two measures that proxy for different dimensions of adult cognition — episodic memory and intact mental status. They relate both these childhood health measures to adult health and SES outcomes during the adult years. They find large cognitive differences to the detriment of women that were mitigated by large gender differences in education among these generations of Chinese people. These gender differences in cognition are especially concentrated within poorer communities in China with gender difference being more sensitive to community level attributes than to family level attributes, with economic resources. In traditional poor Chinese communities, there are strong economic incentives to favor boys at the expense of girls not only in their education outcomes, but in their nutrition and eventually their adult height. These gender cognitive differences have been steadily decreasing across birth cohorts as the economy of China grew rapidly. Among younger cohorts of young adults in China, there is no longer any gender disparity in cognitive ability.

Suggested Citation

Lei, Xiaoyan and Hu, Yuqing and McArdle, John J. and Smith, James P. and Zhao, Yaohui, Gender Differences in Cognition Among Older Adults in China (October 6, 2011). RAND Working Paper Series No. WR-881. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1969030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1969030

Xiaoyan Lei

Peking University - CCER ( email )

No. 38 Xueyuan Road
Haidian District
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

Yuqing Hu

affiliation not provided to SSRN

John J. McArdle

University of Southern California - College of Letters, Arts and Sciences ( email )

Playa Vista, CA
United States

James P. Smith (Contact Author)

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

Yaohui Zhao

Peking University ( email )

Department of Economics
Beijing 100871
China

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