The Long-Term Effect of Intra-European Migration on Cognitive Abilities in Later Life

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Stefan GRUBER, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Germany

This project aims at contributing to the existing literature by comparing European migrants to stayers in the origin country instead of the classical comparison with the native reference group that does not allow for measuring the effect of migration itself.


On theoretical level the direction of the effect remains unclear. On the one hand, the need to navigate a new environment including language, habits, working conditions, etc. might have a positive long-term effect on cognition. On the other hand, acculturative stress associated with migration could undermine cognitive abilities. As shown by previous research, overexposure to stress hormones can be sufficient to disrupt or even damage the hippocampus, the region of the brain that regulates memory, orientation, and the rate of cognitive decline.

Data and Methods

Using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the analytical strategy can be divided into two steps: In the first step, I analyze the effect of migration on the level of cognitive abilities. To deal with endogeneity the exogenous variation in migration outflows between countries and across time is used as instrument for migration. In the second step, I make use of the panel data structure of SHARE to investigate differences in the process of cognitive ageing by applying individual fixed effect models (FE).


The results of the IV regression indicate that migration within Europe has a negative effect on the level of cognitive abilities in the long run. This negative effect turns out to be larger for women. The second analytical step showed no statistically significant differences between migrants and stayers regarding the process of cognitive ageing. Here, other factors seem to be more relevant.