Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



Reading level attenuates differences in neuropsychological test performance between African American and White elders


JENNIFER J.  MANLY  a1 a2 a3 c1, DIANE M.  JACOBS  a2 a3, PEGAH  TOURADJI  a3, SCOTT A.  SMALL  a1 a2 a3 and YAAKOV  STERN  a1 a2 a3 a4
a1 Cognitive Neuroscience Division, Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
a2 Department of Neurology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
a3 G.H. Sergievsky Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
a4 Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

Abstract

The current study sought to determine if discrepancies in quality of education could explain differences in cognitive test scores between African American and White elders matched on years of education. A comprehensive neuropsychological battery was administered to a sample of African American and non-Hispanic White participants in an epidemiological study of normal aging and dementia in the Northern Manhattan community. All participants were diagnosed as nondemented by a neurologist, and had no history of Parkinson's disease, stroke, mental illness, or head injury. The Reading Recognition subtest from the Wide Range Achievement Test–Version 3 was used as an estimate of quality of education. A MANOVA revealed that African American elders obtained significantly lower scores than Whites on measures of word list learning and memory, figure memory, abstract reasoning, fluency, and visuospatial skill even though the groups were matched on years of education. However, after adjusting the scores for WRAT–3 reading score, the overall effect of race was greatly reduced and racial differences on all tests (except category fluency and a drawing measure) became nonsignificant. These findings suggest that years of education is an inadequate measure of the educational experience among multicultural elders, and that adjusting for quality of education may improve the specificity of certain neuropsychological measures. (JINS, 2002, 8, 341–348.)

(Received March 6 2001)
(Revised August 20 2001)
(Accepted August 21 2001)


Key Words: Quality of education; Racial differences.

Correspondence:
c1 Reprint requests to: Jennifer Manly, Ph.D., G.H. Sergievsky Center, 630 West 168th Street P & S Box 16, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: jjm71@columbia.edu