, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 915–930 | Cite as

Education and Male-Female Differences in Later-Life Cognition: International Evidence From Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Jürgen MaurerEmail author


This study explores the role of early-life education for differences in cognitive functioning between men and women aged 60 and older from seven major urban areas in Latin America and the Caribbean. After documenting statistically significant differences in cognitive functioning between men and women for six of the seven study sites, I assess the extent to which these differences can be explained by prevailing male-female differences in education. I decompose predicted male-female differences in cognitive functioning based on various statistical models for later-life cognition and find robust evidence that male-female differences in education are a major driving force behind cognitive functioning differences between older men and women. This study therefore suggests that early-life differences in educational attainment between boys and girls during childhood have a lasting impact on gender inequity in cognitive functioning at older ages. Increases in educational attainment and the closing of the gender gap in education in many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean may thus result in both higher levels and a more gender-equitable distribution of later-life cognition among the future elderly in those countries.


Education Later-life cognition Male-female differences Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition Latin America and the Caribbean 



I thank Emily Sinnott, two anonymous referees, the editor, and seminar participants in Mannheim for helpful comment on earlier versions of this paper. I also gratefully acknowledge the hospitality of the Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA) and the Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales (CEDLAS) at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Financial support for this research was provided by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the RAND Corporation.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Health Economics and ManagementUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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