The following three essays cover topics on the economics of aging. In the first paper, I
estimate the effect of pre-retirement cognitive ability on retirement behavior using the Health and
Retirement Study. I find that cognitive ability delays retirement by extending labor force
participation past the age of 65. I also find evidence that cognitive ability increases the propensity
to delay Social Security benefits. These findings suggest that cognitive ability has a protective
effect on labor force attachment and delays transition into retirement.
The second paper uses a novel data set from China to study how instituting a pension
program can influence individual cognition. Collaborating with Plamen Nikolov, we find that
introducing pension benefits has a negative effect on the cognitive functioning among the elderly.
The largest effect size was on the delayed recall test, which is a significant predictor of the onset
of dementia. We also find suggestive evidence that the program has a larger impact among women.
This chapter shows that retirement plays a significant role in explaining cognitive decline at older
The third paper is a collaboration with Hwan-sik Choi. In this chapter we study the role of
noncognitive ability, focusing on Conscientiousness, in wealth accumulation and its indirect effect
through the health status channel. Conscientiousness is associated with an increase in total net
wealth. The indirect effect through health status is positive and a substantial portion of the total
effect of Conscientiousness. We explore novel instruments for health status using polygenic scores
and obtain similar results to the OLS results: Conscientiousness plays an important role in wealth
accumulation and a fundamental factor behind the health effect on wealth accumulation.