Racial Disparities in the Cognition-Health Relationship

12 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2012

See all articles by Owen Thompson

Owen Thompson

Williams College - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 26, 2011


This paper investigates how the association between cognitive achievement and self-rated health in middle age differs by race, and attempts to explain these differences. The role of cognition in health determination has received only limited empirical attention, and even less is known about how race may affect this relationship. Using data from the NLSY, I find that while Whites with higher cognitive achievement scores tend to report substantially better general health, this relationship is far weaker or wholly absent among Blacks. Further tests suggest that about 35% of this racial difference can be explained by behavioral decisions during adulthood, and that another portion of the disparity may trace back to prenatal and early childhood experiences. The paper closes by noting that its results are broadly consistent with explanations of the racial health gap that emphasize entrenched forms of racial discrimination

Suggested Citation

Thompson, Owen, Racial Disparities in the Cognition-Health Relationship (January 26, 2011). Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 328-339, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1987722

Owen Thompson (Contact Author)

Williams College - Department of Economics ( email )

Fernald House
Williamstown, MA 01267
United States

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