The Influence of Education and Occupation Type on Birth Cohort Differences in Cognitive Function of Mexican Older Adults

Mariela Gutierrez, Morten Wahrendorf, Sadaf Milani, Silvia Mejia-Arango, Rebeca Wong, Brian Downer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Mexico's population aging is occurring in the context of social changes such as increased educational attainment and occupational shifts from agriculture to service and industry. The current study compares cognitive function between two birth cohorts of Mexican adults aged 60-76 to determine if population-level changes in education and occupation type contribute to cohort differences in cognitive function. METHODS: We used the Mexican Health and Aging Study to examine adults aged 60-76 in 2001 (men: 2,309; women: 2,761) and 2018 (men: 2,842; women: 3,825). Global cognition was calculated from five measures. Five main lifetime occupation types were created: no main job; agriculture; service; professional; and industrial. Ordinary least squares regression and structural equation models (SEM) were used to examine cohort differences in cognitive functioning. RESULTS: Ordinary least squares models that adjusted for age, community size, and marital status indicated that men and women had higher global cognition in 2018 than 2001 (men: b = 0.44, p < .01; women: b = 0.54, p < .01). These differences were reduced after adjusting for education and occupation type (men: b = 0.27, p < .01; women: b = 0.37, p < .01). Results from SEM indicated that the indirect effects of education on cognitive functioning were larger than occupation type for men (education: b = 0.18, p < .05; occupation: b = 0.001, p = .91) and women (education: b = 0.18, p < .05; occupation: b = 0.002, p = .22). DISCUSSION: Cognitive functioning is higher among more recent birth cohorts of older adults in Mexico. These cohort differences are partially mediated by education but not main lifetime occupation. Additional factors may contribute to cohort differences in cognitive function for older adults in Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Cognition
  • Life course
  • Mexico
  • Social determinants
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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