Mechanisms of Racial Disparities in Cognitive Aging: An Examination of Material and Psychosocial Well-Being

Rachel L. Peterson, Emily A. Butler, John E. Ehiri, Mindy J. Fain, Scott C. Carvajal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: We tested the hypothesis that education's effect on cognitive aging operates in part through measures of material and psychosocial well-being. Melatiothod: Our sample was of non-Latino black and white participants of the National Social Life Health and Aging Project who had valid cognitive assessments in Waves 2 and 3 (n = 2,951; age range: 48-95). We used structural equation modeling to test for mediation and moderated mediation by income, assets, perceived stress, social status, and allostatic load on the renships between race, education, and cognition at two time points. Results: Education consistently mediated the race-cognition relationship, explaining about 20% of the relationship between race and cognition in all models. Income and assets were moderated by race; these factors were associated with cognition for whites but not blacks. Social status mediated the association between race and cognition, and social status and perceived stress mediated the education-cognition pathway. Allostatic load was not a mediator of any relationship. Discussion: Education remains the best explanatory factor for cognitive aging disparities, though material well-being and subjective social status help to explain a portion of the racial disparity in cognitive aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-582
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • Allostatic load
  • Cognitive aging
  • Education
  • Health disparities
  • Stress


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