Journal of Gender, Culture and Health

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 171-185

First online:

Cultural/Ethnic Comparisons: A Research Agenda

  • Patrick B. JohnsonAffiliated withThe National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
  • , Robert MalgadyAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, New York University

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This paper outlines some of the common problems encountered by researchers conducting ethnic or cultural comparisons. The problems are considered in relation to three linked questions that are considered with respect to a comparison of Irish-American and mainland Puerto Rican drinking behavior. With regard to the first question—whom to compare in such research— attention is drawn to the importance of selecting groups on conceptual grounds rather than on the basis of convenience or availability. The distinction between model- and meaning-driven choices is then highlighted. Problems associated with group designation, inclusion criteria, and confounding are also discussed in response to this first question. With respect to the second question—what to compare in such research—the discussion focuses on model-driven measures and generalization-driven measures and the issue of acculturation. The final question—how to insure measure comparability—is addressed with respect to measure equivalence, the problem of cross-cultural meaning and significance, and the use of backtranslation methods to insure linguistic equivalence.

culture ethnicity ethnic comparisons methods