The role of parental cognitive aging in the intergenerational mobility of cognitive abilities

Conti ValentinaKopinska Joanna
CEIS Research Paper
This paper studies intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities from parents to children. We create a measure of parental cognitive evolution across time, which combines cognitive tests scores obtained at the age of 16 with the ones at the age of 50. We are thus able to identify cognitive aging patterns and assess their impact in the intergenerational perspective. The British National Child Development Study (NCDS) allows us to investigate the effect of parental cognition on two distinct offspring's outcomes: cognitive abilities and educational attainment. Our analysis provides novel results concerning the role of parental cognitive transition during adult life. We find that children benefit not only from the stock of cognitive abilities their mothers and fathers hold as adolescents, but also from cognitive evolution their parents achieve as adults. This outcome is significant and robust under various model specifications. Finally, we investigate the determinants of parental cognitive transition. We find that cognitive aging is attenuated for individuals who undergo multiple job variations, follow on-the-job trainings and engage in leisure activities. This analysis delivers new evidence on the role of policy interventions aimed at fostering cognitive function during adult life, which aside from improving individual outcomes, has positive externalities for the subsequent generations.
Number: 219
Keywords: intergenerational mobility, cognitive ability
JEL codes: I20, J24, J62
Date: Monday 30 January 2012
Revision Date: Monday 30 January 2012