A Global Perspective on Cognitive Abilities and Educational Attainment

Daniela Weber, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Vegard Skirbekk, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Age-related cognitive decline combined with demographic changes represent significant social, economic, and health-related challenges. Extending schooling and improving the quality of education could be one policy response for reducing the incidence of poor cognitive function among older adults. This study gives a global comparison of the relationship between education and cognition, using standardized cognitive measures from representative surveys of individuals aged 50 and above. We use a multilevel approach to identify the influence of individual education as well as the influence of national-level education, controlling for sex, age, and health. Education is found to be positively associated with cognitive function across more than 20 countries, but the relationship differs strongly across countries. Raising the level and quality of education could represent a potential mechanism for improving cognition at older ages.

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Presented in Session 136: Comparative Perspectives on Aging