Immigrant status and cognitive functioning in late-life: An examination of gender variations in the healthy immigrant effect

Terrence D. Hill, Jacqueline L. Angel, Kelly S. Balistreri, Angelica P. Herrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although some research suggests that the healthy immigrant effect extends to cognitive functioning, it is unclear whether this general pattern varies according to gender. 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 linear growth curve models to assess variations in cognitive functioning trajectories by nativity status and age at migration to the U.S.A. among women and men. Our results show, among women and men, no differences in baseline cognitive status (intercepts) between early- (before age 20) and late-life (50 and older) immigrants and U.S.-born individuals of Mexican-origin. We also find, among women and men, that middle-life (between the ages of 20 and 49) immigrants tend to exhibit higher levels of baseline cognitive functioning than the U.S.-born. Our growth curve analyses suggest that the cognitive functioning trajectories (slopes) of women do not vary according to nativity status and age at migration. The cognitive functioning trajectories of early- and late-life immigrant men are also similar to those of U.S.-born men; however, those men who migrated in middle-life tend to exhibit slower rates of cognitive decline. A statistically significant interaction term suggests that the pattern for middle-life migration is more pronounced for men (or attenuated for women). In other words, although women and men who migrated in middle-life exhibit higher levels of baseline cognitive functioning, immigrant men tend to maintain this advantage for a longer period of time. Taken together, these patterns confirm that gender is an important conditioning factor in the association between immigrant status and cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2076-2084
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume75
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cognitive functioning
  • Elderly
  • Gender
  • Immigration
  • Mexican American
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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