Urban neighborhood context, educational attainment, and cognitive function among older adults

Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Jun 15;163(12):1071-8. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwj176. Epub 2006 May 17.


Existing research has not addressed the potential impact of neighborhood context--educational attainment of neighbors in particular--on individual-level cognition among older adults. Using hierarchical linear modeling, the authors analyzed data from the 1993 Study of Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), a large, nationally representative sample of US adults born before 1924. Data from participants residing in urban neighborhoods (n = 3,442) were linked with 1990 US Census tract data. Findings indicate that 1) average cognitive function varies significantly across US Census tracts; 2) older adults living in low-education areas fare less well cognitively than those living in high-education areas, net of individual characteristics, including their own education; 3) this association is sustained when controlling for contextual-level median household income; and 4) the effect of individual-level educational attainment differs across neighborhoods of varying educational profiles. Promoting educational attainment among the general population living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may prove cognitively beneficial to its aging residents because it may lead to meliorations in stressful life conditions and coping deficiencies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population*