Racial and Ethnic Differences in Returns of Education on Cognitive Functioning in Later Life

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins , Missouri State University
Amy Thierry, Xavier University

Though recent evidence suggests that the prevalence of severe cognitive impairment has declined significantly between 2000 and 2012, there still exists a disproportionate burden of ill cognitive health for people of color. Indeed, numerous studies have found that, relative to whites, blacks and Hispanics suffer from poorer cognitive functioning across the lifespan. While differences in level of education likely explain some of the racial/ethnic differences in later life cognitive functioning, it may also be the case that the effects of education operate differently for whites than for people of color. In this paper, we draw on the 2012 wave of the Health and Retirement Study and investigate whether the returns of education on cognitive impairment vary across race/ethnicity. Results indicate that the protective effects of education are stronger for blacks than for whites, but that whites reap more benefits from education than Hispanics. We conclude with future directions.

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 Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging