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The Impact of Social Security Income on Cognitive Function at Older Ages

Padmaja Ayyagari, David Frisvold

NBER Working Paper No. 21484
Issued in August 2015
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Economics, Public Economics

Prior literature has documented a positive association between income and cognitive function at older ages, however, the extent to which this association represents causal effects is unknown. In this study, we use an exogenous change in Social Security income due to amendments to the Social Security Act in the 1970s to identify the causal impact of Social Security income on cognitive function of elderly individuals. We find that higher benefits led to significant improvements in cognitive function and that these improvements in cognition were clinically meaningful. Our results suggest that interventions even at advanced ages can slow the rate of decline in cognitive function.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21484

Published: Padmaja Ayyagari & David Frisvold, 2016. "The Impact of Social Security Income on Cognitive Function at Older Ages," American Journal of Health Economics, vol 2(4), pages 463-488.

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