State-level desegregation in the U.S. South and mid-life cognitive function among Black and White adults.

TitleState-level desegregation in the U.S. South and mid-life cognitive function among Black and White adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationForthcoming
AuthorsWalsemann, KM, Hair, NL, Farina, MP, Tyagi, P, Jackson, H, Ailshire, JA
JournalSocial Science & Medicine (1983)
Volume338
Pagination116319
ISSN Number1873-5347
KeywordsEducation, historical data, life course, school segregation
Abstract

RATIONALE: Black adults experience worse cognitive function than their White peers. Although educational attainment is an important predictor of cognitive function, other aspects of education, including school desegregation, may also shape this relationship. For Black adults who grew up in the U.S. South in the 1950s-1970s, exposure to school desegregation may have altered life course pathways critical for later cognitive function.

OBJECTIVE: We determined if state variation in exposure to school desegregation in the U.S. South was associated with cognitive function at mid-life, if the association varied by race, and if the association remained after adjustment for state-level education quality and respondents' educational attainment.

METHODS: We linked historical data on state-level school desegregation to the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 50 and older. We restricted our sample to Black (n = 1443) and White (n = 1507) adults born between 1948 and 1963 who resided in the U.S. South during primary school. We assessed three cognition outcomes: total cognitive function, episodic memory, and mental status. We estimated race-stratified linear regression models with cluster adjustment and a final model using state fixed effects.

RESULTS: Greater exposure to desegregated primary schooling was associated with higher cognitive function and episodic memory among Black but not White adults. Among Black adults, the association between school desegregation and cognitive function and episodic memory remained after adjustment for state-level education quality and educational attainment.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that state-level school desegregation efforts played a consequential role in shaping the cognitive function of Black adults who grew up in the U.S. South.

DOI10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.116319
Citation Key13587
PubMed ID37871395