We examined the relation of early life socioeconomic circumstances to cognition in older residents of a biracial urban community. Participants had brief cognitive testing three times at approximately 3-year Intervals. At baseline, information about early life household and county socioeconomic level was collected. In mixed-effects models adjusted for age, sex, race, and education, both early life household and county socioeconomic levels were positively associated with baseline level of cognition but unrelated to cognitive decline. The results suggest that socioeconomic conditions in early life are associated with level of cognitive function in old age but not with rate of cognitive decline.