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Cognitive ability over the Life course: Evidence from chess tournaments.

24th Aug 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

We use data on chess tournament performance in the United States over the period 2004-2018 to assess how performance varies over the life course. We have data on performance 369,481 players in over 16 million games. We use data on players aged 1 to 100 years of age. We find very rapid increases in performance with age for children and a peak for adults at age 55 with a slow decline with age after the peak. We find strong experience effects with performance improving with chess playing experience, with fast learning for children but a decline in the slope of the performance-experience relationship with age. We also adjust for selection effects using a Heckman selection model based on incentives to play from rating title boundaries.

We recruited a sample of 154 chess players and compared their chess performance against a standard battery of cognitive tests. We find a moderate positive correlation for average players but less relationship for elite players. We also examine the effect of exposure to air pollution (PM2.5) in the players home address ZIP codes on tournament performance. We find that exposure to PM2.5 in the year prior to play has a significant negative effect on performance for all age groups, with significant performance effects even below current recommended exposure thresholds.

About the Presenter

Professor David Canning is the Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Science, and Professor of Economics and International health in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He has a PhD in Economics from Cambridge University and has held faculty positions at the London School of Economics, Cambridge University, Columbia University, and Queen’s University Belfast. He has carried out extensive research on the impact of health improvements on economic outcomes and served as a member of Working Group One of the World Health Organization’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health. His research focuses on the role of demographic change and health improvements┬áin economic development.

Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 916 6849 5415
Passcode: 094102

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24th Aug 2022
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Amy Jephthah