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Cognitive disparities between US- and foreign-born individuals



This study aims to assess whether heterogeneity in cognitive functioning trajectories differ across racial/ethnic and nativity (REN) groups, as well as if gender, level of education, physical comorbidities, history of health behaviors, and functional limitations reflect the processes associated with cumulative advantage (disadvantage), persistent inequality, and age as leveler.


The empirical work of this study is based on the 1996–2012 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Growth curve modeling is used to assess the aims of this study.


Long-term change in cognitive functioning trajectories are shaped along REN lines. US-born whites have significantly better cognitive function but experience a faster rate of cognitive deterioration than foreign-born whites, as well as foreign- and US-born blacks, Mexicans, other Hispanics, and other racial ethnic groups, even after taking gender, level of education, health behaviors, and the relevant chronic and physical health conditions into account.


There is a pressing need for more culturally appropriate and culturally adapted programs and preventive strategies that take the cultural, linguistic, and other specific needs and issues of individuals in different REN groups into account. There remains a pressing need for an integrated treatment and screening for physical comorbidities, functional limitations, and cognitive interventions.

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Correspondence to Hui-Peng Liew.

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Ethical or Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and informed consent are exempted from this study because it is based on secondary data, namely the 1996–2012 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the HRS Cross-Wave Tracker file.

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The author certifies that no conflict of interest exists regarding this manuscript and there is no connection, financial or otherwise, that might imply or introduce bias in any aspect of my work in review of the manuscript. This manuscript has not been considered for publication elsewhere. No similar works have been submitted elsewhere.

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Liew, H. Cognitive disparities between US- and foreign-born individuals. J Public Health (Berl.) (2020).

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  • Cognitive function
  • Growth curve modeling
  • Aging
  • Health and Retirement Study