Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey A. Burr

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dugan

Third Advisor

Fengyan Tang


Previous studies have demonstrated that late-life cognitive change is associated with socioeconomic status (SES) developed from childhood to adulthood. Although the association between childhood SES and late-life cognitive functioning has been demonstrated empirically, few studies examined the relationships between childhood SES and cognitive performance longitudinally. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of childhood and adult SES on different cognitive domain (global cognition, memory, and mental status) changes. Using a nationally representative sample from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), cognition change from 1998 to 2010 was examined using growth curve models. The results showed that childhood SES indicators were related to all cognitive functions, adult SES indicators were mediating the effects of childhood SES on cognitive functions, and cumulative SES indicator was related to cognitive functions. In terms of the rate of decline in cognitive functions, indicators of childhood SES were significantly related. In addition, both childhood and adult SES indicators were significantly related to between and within-person variation in cognitive functions. Gender and race differences in the relationship between childhood SES and cognitive functions were also affirmed. These findings suggest that childhood SES has long-term effects on cognitive status as well as for cognitive change in later life although some of the childhood effects are mediated by adult SES factors.


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