The Dimensionality and Measurement of Cognitive Functioning at age 65 in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study

Yonker, James, Robert Hauser, and Jeremy Freese
Working paper no. 2007-06


The 2003-05 telephone surveys of high school graduates in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study administered six cognitive assessments: immediate and delayed word recall, digit ordering, a subset of the WAIS-R similarities test, and letter and category frequency. We have analyzed these data separately among male and female participants in the WLS. We find that a structural model with a single, second order factor for general cognitive functioning fits the data well. The first order factors are memory/attention (word recall and digit ordering), abstract reasoning (WAIS-R), and verbal (letter and category) fluency. In addition, the memory/attention factor loads much more heavily on the general cognition factor among men than among women. We recommend this model be used in other analyses of cognitive functioning in the WLS.