Abstract

The influence of education on cognition has received a great deal of attention in the literature. Although there is general consensus regarding the importance of education on cognitive functioning, the extent to which self-reported level of education corresponds to true educational attainment remains unclear, especially in ethnic minority populations where equal access to education has not always been available. Several investigators have suggested that reading skill may serve as a quantitative estimate of true education experience. Among African-Americans, however, research has shown that self-reported educational level consistently over predicts estimated reading level. The current study analyzed the discrepancy between self-reported years of education completed and estimated reading level in a sample of community-dwelling, elderly African-Americans participating in Mayo's Older African Americans Normative Studies (MOAANS) (Lucas, J.A., Ivnik, R.J., Willis, F.B., Ferman, T.J., Smith, G.E., Parfitt, F.C., Petersen, R.C., & Graff-Radford, N.R. (2005). Mayo's Older African Americans Normative Studies: Normative data for commonly used clinical neuropsychological measures. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 19, 162–183). In this sample, 29% of the participants read at a level that was 3 or more years below what would be expected based on self-report of education attained. This study also sought to evaluate the extent to which this discrepancy fluctuated as a function of demographic variables such as location of schooling (urban, suburban, rural; North vs. South), parental education and literacy, and percentage of segregation in schooling. Implications of these results are discussed, as are areas for further inquiry.