The changing face of cognitive gender differences in Europe

Weber D, Skirbekk V, Freund I, & Herlitz A (2014). The changing face of cognitive gender differences in Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (32): 11673-11678. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1319538111.

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Abstract

Cognitive gender differences and the reasons for their origins have fascinated researchers for decades. Using nationally representative data to investigate gender differences in cognitive performance in middle-aged and older populations across Europe, we show that the magnitude of these differences varies systematically across cognitive tasks, birth cohorts, and regions, but also that the living conditions and educational opportunities individuals are exposed to during their formative years are related to their later cognitive performance. Specifically, we demonstrate that improved living conditions and less gender-restricted educational opportunities are associated with increased gender differences favoring women in some cognitive functions (i.e., episodic memory) and decreases (i.e., numeracy) or elimination of differences in other cognitive abilities (i.e., category fluency). Our results suggest that these changes take place due to a general increase in women's cognitive performance over time, associated with societal improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cognitive aging; Gender inequality; Sex differences; Cross-cultural research
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Bibliographic Reference: PNAS; 111(32):11673-11678 (12 August 2014) (Published online 28 July 2014)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:50
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2016 09:26
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/10874

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