Racial and ethnic differences in cognitive function among older adults in the USA

Carlos Díaz-Venegas, Brian Downer, Kenneth M. Langa, Rebeca Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Objective: Examine differences in cognition between Hispanic, non-Hispanic black (NHB), and non-Hispanic white (NHW) older adults in the United States. Data/Methods: The final sample includes 18 982 participants aged 51 or older who received a modified version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status during the 2010 Health and Retirement Study follow-up. Ordinary least squares will be used to examine differences in overall cognition according to race/ethnicity. Results: Hispanics and NHB had lower cognition than NHW for all age groups (51-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80+). Hispanics had higher cognition than NHB for all age groups but these differences were all within one point. The lower cognition among NHB compared to NHW remained significant after controlling for age, gender, and education, whereas the differences in cognition between Hispanics and NHW were no longer significant after controlling for these covariates. Cognitive scores increased with greater educational attainment for all race/ethnic groups, but Hispanics exhibited the least benefit. Discussion: Our results highlight the role of education in race/ethnic differences in cognitive function during old age. Education seems beneficial for cognition in old age for all race/ethnic groups, but Hispanics appear to receive a lower benefit compared to other race/ethnic groups. Further research is needed on the racial and ethnic differences in the pathways of the benefits of educational attainment for late-life cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1004-1012
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • HRS
  • USA
  • cognition
  • older adults
  • race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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