Cognitive Functioning of U.S. Adults by Race and Hispanic Origin

  • Carlos Díaz-VenegasEmail author
  • Brian Downer
  • Kenneth M. Langa
  • Rebeca Wong


The U.S. older adult population is becoming increasingly diverse. The evidence from research using data from diverse older adult populations indicates that Hispanics have poorer performance on cognitive tests than older non-Hispanic whites (NHW). However, the evidence that older Hispanics are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD) than NHW is less clear. Interpreting the evidence from existing research on disparities between NHWs and Hispanics is complicated by the fact that few studies have differentiated between Hispanic subgroups by country of origin. In this chapter, we use the ethnic descriptor of Hispanic as interchangeable with Latino. We summarize the current evidence on disparities between Hispanics and NHW in cognitive functioning and ADRD, and factors that may contribute to these disparities. This summary focuses on the rationale for considering specific Hispanic populations when studying differences in cognitive functioning between Hispanics and NHWs. Finally, we present and discuss the findings from an analysis of data from the 2010 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (n = 18,982) in which we examine differences in three cognitive domains by race/ethnicity, including four Hispanic subgroups. In this analysis, all Hispanic subgroups, except Cubans, had significantly lower scores for all cognitive domains compared to NHWs, with Puerto Ricans showing the lowest scores among Hispanics.



This work was supported in part by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (grant number R01 AG018016 to R.W.). The authors have no conflict of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Díaz-Venegas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian Downer
    • 2
  • Kenneth M. Langa
    • 3
  • Rebeca Wong
    • 4
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Max-Planck-Institut für Demografische Forschung)RostockGermany
  2. 2.Division of Rehabilitation SciencesThe University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA
  3. 3.Division of General MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Preventive Medicine and Community HealthSealy Center on Aging, WHO/PAHO Collaborating Center on Aging and Health, the University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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