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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2001 Sep;56(5):S266-74.

Race differences in cognitive functioning among older adults.

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Department of Sociology, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611-7330, USA.



Explaining race differences in cognitive functioning in later life continues to challenge researchers. This study was an attempt to incorporate the clinical literature, emphasizing biological correlates of cognitive functioning, and the social research literature, emphasizing social inequalities and consequent health outcomes, in the examination of sources of race differences in cognitive functioning in older adults.


With data from Wave 1 of the Assets and Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old survey, the authors used structural equation models (LISREL 8.30) to estimate the direct effects of race on cognitive functioning and indirect effects through social and biological risk factors for the total sample (N = 5,955).


Race had a direct association with cognitive functioning. Race also had indirect effects on cognitive functioning through social risk factors-education and health insurance. There did not appear to be indirect effects of race through biological risk factors.


The direct and indirect effects of race through social risk factors attest to the importance of examining different ways through which race can influence cognitive functioning of older adults. This research also emphasizes the need for researchers to investigate more closely race differences in dimensions of cognitive functioning and cognitive functioning over time.

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