American Sociological Association

School Context in Adolescence and Cognitive Functioning 50 Years Later

To advance understanding of how social inequalities from childhood might contribute to cognitive aging, we examined the extent to which school context in adolescence was associated with individuals’ cognitive performance more than 50 years later. Using data from 3,012 participants in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), we created an aggregate measure of school-level structural advantage, with indicators such as the proportion of teachers who had at least five years of teaching experience and spending per pupil. Multilevel models indicated that secondary school advantage was associated with small benefits in language/executive function at age 65 among older adults who had lower academic achievement in secondary school. Findings suggest that school advantage is a developmental context of adolescence that has modest implications for intracohort differences in aspects of later life cognition.


Sara M. Moorman, Emily A. Greenfield, and Sarah Garcia





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