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We leveraged a unique school-based longitudinal cohort—the Project Talent Aging Study—to examine whether attending higher quality schools is associated with cognitive performance among older adults in the United States (mean age = 74.8). Participants (n = 2,289) completed telephone neurocognitive testing. Six indicators of high school quality, reported by principals at the time of schooling, were predictors of respondents’ cognitive function 58 years later. To account for school-clustering, multilevel linear and logistic models were applied. We found that attending schools with a higher number of teachers with graduate training was the clearest predictor of later-life cognition, and school quality mattered especially for language abilities. Importantly, Black respondents (n = 239; 10.5 percentage) were disproportionately exposed to low quality high schools. Therefore, increased investment in schools, especially those that serve Black children, could be a powerful strategy to improve later life cognitive health among older adults in the United States.


This article was originally published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring (DADM), volume 15, issue 2, in 2023.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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