October 2012

IZA DP No. 6958: Does Schooling Improve Cognitive Functioning at Older Ages?

published as 'Does Education Improve Cognitive Performance Four Decades After School Completion?' in: Demography, 2014, 51 (2), 619-643

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.