The Causal Effect of Fertility History on Cognitive Functioning in Later Life

Eric Bonsang, Université Paris-Dauphine
Vegard Skirbekk

The impact of fertility on cognitive functioning among older individuals in Europe is not well understood. This is in spite of rapid changes in fertility patterns and widespread concerns for the negative effects of ageing on cognitive functioning. We use an instrumental variable (IV) based approach by exploiting a source of exogenous variation in the number of children. This allows us to assess the effect of number of children on cognitive outcomes among older adults in Europe. Our results indicate that having a third child negative affects later life cognition. Our IV results are larger than the OLS estimates, which could suggest a positive selection of those who decide to have a third child. We did identify regional heterogeneity: The effect is more salient in the Northern European countries (Sweden and Denmark), while no significant effect is found in the Southern European countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain).

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 Presented in Session 205. Cross-National Comparisons on Disability and Cognitive Health