Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Gerontologist. 2020 Aug 24:gnaa112.

doi: 10.1093/geront/gnaa112.

Online ahead of print.

PMID: 32833008


© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.

Accepted manuscript


Background and Objectives: To examine racial/ethnic, nativity, and gender differences in the benefits of educational attainment on cognitive life expectancies among older adults in the United States.

Design and Methods: We used data from the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2014) to estimate Sullivan-based life tables of cognitively healthy, cognitively impaired/no dementia (CIND), and dementia life expectancies by gender for older White, Black, U.S.-born and foreign-born Hispanic adults with less than high school, high school, and some college or more.

Results: White respondents lived a greater percentage of their remaining lives cognitive healthy than their minority Black or Hispanic counterparts, regardless of level of education. Among respondents with some college or more, versus less than high school, Black and U.S.-born Hispanic women exhibited the greatest increase (both 37 percentage points higher) in the proportion of total life expectancy spent cognitively healthy; whereas White women had the smallest increase (17 percentage points higher). For men, the difference between respondents with some college or more, versus less than high school, was greatest for Black men (35 percentage points higher) and was lowest for U.S.-born Hispanic men (21 percentage points higher).

Discussion and Implications: Our results provide evidence that the benefits of education on cognitive life expectancies are largest for Black men and women, and U.S.-born Hispanic women. The combination of extended longevity and rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease point to the need for understanding why certain individuals spend an extended period of their lives with poor cognitive health.