nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2021‒09‒13
four papers chosen by

  1. Cognitive skills, strategic sophistication, and life outcomes By Eduardo Fe; David Gill; Victoria Prowse
  2. A Bit of Salt, A Trace of Life: Gender Norms and The Impact of a Salt Iodization Program on Human Capital Formation of School Aged Children By Zichen Deng; Maarten Lindeboom
  3. Reaping the Rewards Later: How Education Improves Old-Age Cognition in South Africa By Plamen Nikolov; Steve Yeh
  4. Early Childhood Human Capital Formation at Scale By Johannes M. Bos; Akib Khan; Saravana Ravindran; Abu S. Shonchoy

  1. By: Eduardo Fe; David Gill; Victoria Prowse
    Abstract: We investigate how childhood cognitive skills affect strategic sophistication and adult outcomes. In particular, we emphasize the importance of childhood theory-of-mind as a cognitive skill. We collected experimental data from more than seven hundred children in a variety of strategic interactions. First, we find that theory-of-mind ability and cognitive ability both predict level-k behavior. Second, older children respond to information about the cognitive ability of their opponent, which provides support for the emergence of a sophisticated strategic theory-of-mind. Third, theory-of-mind and age strongly predict whether children respond to intentions in a gift-exchange game, while cognitive ability has no influence, suggesting that different measures of cognitive skill correspond to different cognitive processes in strategic situations that involve understanding intentions. Using the ALSPAC birth-cohort study, we find that childhood theory-of-mind and cognitive ability are both associated with enhanced adult social skills, higher educational participation, better educational attainment, and lower fertility in young adulthood. Finally, we provide evidence that school spending improves theory-of-mind in childhood.
    Date: 2021
  2. By: Zichen Deng (Norwegian School of Economics); Maarten Lindeboom (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
    Abstract: This paper examines the effects of a massive salt iodization program on human capital formation of school-aged children in China. Exploiting province and time variation, we find a strong positive impact on cognition for girls and no effects for boys. For non-cognitive skills, we find the opposite. We show in a simple model of parental investment that gender preferences can explain our findings. Analyses exploiting within the province, village-level variation in gender attitudes confirm the importance of parental gender preferences. Consequently, large scale programs can have positive (and possibly) unintended effects on gender equality in societies with son preference.
    Keywords: Iodine, parental investments, gender attitudes, cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills
    JEL: I15 J16 J24 O15
    Date: 2021–09
  3. By: Plamen Nikolov (State University of New York (at Binghamton)); Steve Yeh (Columbia University)
    Abstract: Cognitive abilities are fundamental for decision-making, and understanding the causes of human capital depreciation in old age is especially important in an aging society. Using a longitudinal labor survey that collects direct proxy measures of cognitive skills, we study the effect of educational attainment on cognitive performance in late adulthood in South Africa. We find robust evidence that an increase in a year of schooling improves memory performance and general cognition. We also find evidence of heterogeneous effects of educational attainment on cognitive performance. We explore the mechanisms through which education can affect cognitive performance. We show that a more supportive social environment, improved health habits, and reduced stress levels likely play a critical role in mediating the beneficial effects of educational attainment on cognition among the elderly.
    Keywords: human capital, educational attainment, cognitive performance, developing countries, sub-Saharan Africa
    JEL: J14 J24 I21 F63 N37
    Date: 2021–09
  4. By: Johannes M. Bos (American Institutes for Research, USA); Akib Khan (Uppsala University, Sweden); Saravana Ravindran (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore); Abu S. Shonchoy (Department of Economics, Florida International University)
    Abstract: Can governments leverage existing service-delivery platforms to scale early childhood development (ECD) programs? We experimentally study a large-scale home-visiting intervention providing materials and counseling -integrated into Bangladesh's national nutrition program without extra financial incentives for the service providers (SPs). We find SPs partially substituted away from nutritional to ECD counseling. Intent-to-treat estimates show the program improved child's cognitive (0.17 SD), language (0.23 SD), and socio-emotional developments (0.12-0.14 SD). Wasting and underweight rates also declined. Improved maternal agency, complementary parental investments, and higher take-up of the pre-existing nutrition program were important mechanisms. We estimate a sizeable internal rate-of-return of 19.6%.
    Keywords: Early childhood development, Human capital formation, Bangladesh
    JEL: J13 J24 I25 H11
    Date: 2021–09

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