Gender Differences in Cognition in China and Reasons for Change Over Time

Evidence from CHARLS

Published in: Journal of the Economics of Ageing, v.4, Dec. 2014, p. 46-55

Posted on RAND.org on February 19, 2016

by Xiaoyan Lei, James P. Smith, Xiaoting Sun, Yaohui Zhao

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of the Economics of Ageing

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

In this paper, we 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), CHARLS respondents are 45 years and older and are nationally representative of the Chinese population in this age span. Our measures of cognition in CHARLS rely on two measures that proxy for different dimensions of adult cognition--episodic memory and intact mental status. We relate these cognitive measures to adult health and SES outcomes during the adult years. We 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 in the older age groups and poorer communities within the sample. We also investigated historical, geographical, and cultural characteristics of communities to understand how they impact cognition. Economic development and environmental improvement such as having electricity, increases in wage per capita and green coverage ratio generally contribute to higher cognition ability. Women benefit more from the fruits of development – electricity and growth of green coverage ratio are conducive to lessening female disadvantage in cognition.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.