The Effect of Education on Cognitive Ability

By Falch, Torberg; Massih, Sofia Sandgren | Economic Inquiry, July 2011 | Go to article overview

The Effect of Education on Cognitive Ability


Falch, Torberg, Massih, Sofia Sandgren, Economic Inquiry


I. INTRODUCTION

An implicit assumption in the human capital literature is that education affects individuals' general and analytical skills, and not only achievements narrowly related to the curriculum. A general concern in the empirical literature on human capital investments is the extent to which the effect of observed investments reflects unobserved ability. If noncompulsory schooling is only a signaling device, general cognitive skills should not be affected by schooling choices. In order to investigate whether education affects cognitive ability, it is necessary to test individuals after they have completed different amounts of schooling, using a test that does not favor individuals with specific types of education. Natural candidates in this regard are various types of intelligence quotient (IQ) tests as these are designed to test "thinking skills" or "intelligence."

This paper investigates whether formal schooling improves IQ scores. The empirical challenge is to isolate the effect of schooling on cognitive ability from the effect of latent ability. Latent ability is a strong predictor of schooling, at least in a signaling setting. It is thus essential to take selection into noncompulsory schooling into account in order to compare individuals who are initially seemingly identical. Hansen, Heckman, and Mullen (2004) use NLSY data on achievement and solve the selection problem by conditioning on estimated latent ability, utilizing the fact that the individuals have conducted the cognitive test at different ages (between 15 and 22 years of age) and that some have completed their schooling at the date of the test. Although this may be a reasonable approach, an approach that conditions on observed early cognitive ability as in Winship and Korenman (1997, 1999) may seem easier to interpret.

We use the Malm6 Longitudinal Dataset, a dataset much richer on ability measures than the NLSY data. The data include the IQ test from the compulsory military enrollment at age 20, which we use as the outcome variable, in addition to a comparable IQ test and different teacher evaluations at age 10. The latter measures make it possible to utilize comparable early cognitive ability measures to take account of selection into education. The initial sample consists of the population of third graders in the city of Malmo in 1938. Ten years later, a major effort was made by Husen (1950) to collect the results on the IQ test at military enrollment for all individuals in the initial sample. According to Husen, who was also involved in the construction of the latter test, the IQ tests are highly comparable.

In the empirical period, compulsory schooling began the year the child turned seven and lasted 7 years only. In addition to ordinary least squares (OLS), we use instrumental variable (IV) techniques in line with the literature on the return to education in the labor market. Measurement error in education might be a problem, children who believe they will gain most in their development of cognitive skills by remaining in school might be most likely to do so, and people investing in schooling might be more likely to invest more in cognitive skills in other ways. As instruments, we use average family income during childhood, the tracking decision after fourth grade, and the growth in the grade point average (GPA) from the end of third to the end of fourth grade as assessed by the teacher. The two latter variables are attractive because tracking of the students started in grade five, partly based on GPA, and the former variable is attractive in the value-added model formulation because causal evidence indicates that credit market constraints played a role in the empirical period. We present results using the instruments separately, which identifies the schooling effect on very different variations, and jointly in the same model.

How intelligence is determined is an old research question within psychology. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Effect of Education on Cognitive Ability
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.