Height, Education and Later-Life Cognition in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published In: Economics and Human Biology, v. 8, no. 2, July 2010, p. 168-176

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Jürgen Maurer

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Building on previous evidence from the U.S., this study investigates the relationship between anthropometric markers (height and knee height), early-life conditions, education, and cognitive function in later life among urban elderly from Latin America and the Caribbean. I document a positive association between height and later-life cognitive function, which is larger for women than for men. This sex difference increases when I address potential feedback effects from mid- and later-life circumstances on stature by using knee height as an instrument for height. Specifically, while the estimates for women remain largely unchanged, I only find a diminished and statistically insignificant association between instrumented height and later-life cognition for men. This finding suggests that at least part of the association between height and later-life cognition among men may stem from common third factors that are correlated with both height and later-life cognition, such as adverse occupational exposures or health events during mid- and later life. Extended models that also include education further diminish the association between height and later-life cognition. Education displays strong positive gradients with the employed measures of childhood circumstances-including height-which points to education as a potential pathway linking early-life conditions and later-life cognitive function.

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