Introduction: We examined the association of both midlife occupation and age at retirement with cognitive decline in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) biracial community-based cohort. Methods: Current or most recent occupation at ARIC baseline (1987–1989; aged 45–64 years) was categorized based on 1980 US Census major occupation groups and tertiles of the Nam-Powers-Boyd occupational status score (n = 14,090). Retirement status via annual follow-up questionnaires administered ascertained in 1999–2007 was classified as occurring before or after age 70 (n = 7,503). Generalized estimating equation models were used to examine associations of occupation and age at retirement with trajectories of global cognitive factor scores, assessed from visit 2 (1990–1992) to visit 5 (2011–2013). Models were a priori stratified by race and sex and adjusted for demographics and comorbidities. Results: Low occupational status and blue-collar occupations were associated with low baseline cognitive scores in all race-sex strata. Low occupational status and homemaker status were associated with faster decline in white women but slower decline in black women compared to high occupational status. Retirement before age 70 was associated with slower cognitive decline in white men and women and in black men. Results did not change substantially after accounting for attrition. Conclusion: Low occupational status was associated with cognitive decline in women but not in men. Earlier retirement was associated with a slower cognitive decline in white participants and in black men. Further research should explore reasons for the observed associations and race-sex differences.

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