Does the “Healthy Immigrant Effect” Extend to Cognitive Aging?

Terrence D. Hill, Florida State University
Jacqueline L. Angel, University of Texas at Austin
Kelly Balistreri, Bowling Green State University
Ronald Angel, University of Texas at Austin

We test whether the “healthy immigrant effect” extends to indicators of cognitive aging. We use six waves of data collected from the original cohort of the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly to estimate a series of growth curve models to assess variations in cognitive functioning trajectories by nativity and age at migration. Our results suggest that the cognitive functioning trajectories of early (before age 20) and late life migrants (50 and older) are similar to those of the US-born. We also find that those who immigrated between the ages of 20 and 49 tend to exhibit a slower rate of cognitive decline than the US-born; moreover, this pattern is especially pronounced for men. Although our results suggest that the health advantage of Mexican immigrants extends to cognitive aging, additional research is needed to explore selection processes that are specific to age at migration and gender.

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Presented in Session 153: Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differentials in Health and Mortality