Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 269–283 | Cite as

Sources of Response Bias in Older Ethnic Minorities: A Case of Korean American Elderly

  • Miyong T. Kim
  • Ju-Young Lee
  • Jisook Ko
  • Hyunwoo Yoon
  • Kim B. Kim
  • Yuri Jang


The present study was undertaken to investigate potential sources of response bias in empirical research involving older ethnic minorities and to identify prudent strategies to reduce those biases, using Korean American elderly (KAE) as an example. Data were obtained from three independent studies of KAE (N = 1,297; age ≥60) in three states (Florida, New York, and Maryland) from 2000 to 2008. Two common measures, Pearlin’s Mastery Scale and the CES-D scale, were selected for a series of psychometric tests based on classical measurement theory. Survey items were analyzed in depth, using psychometric properties generated from both exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis as well as correlational analysis. Two types of potential sources of bias were identified as the most significant contributors to increases in error variances for these psychological instruments. Error variances were most prominent when (1) items were not presented in a manner that was culturally or contextually congruent with respect to the target population and/or (2) the response anchors for items were mixed (e.g., positive vs. negative). The systemic patterns and magnitudes of the biases were also cross-validated for the three studies. The results demonstrate sources and impacts of measurement biases in studies of older ethnic minorities. The identified response biases highlight the need for re-evaluation of current measurement practices, which are based on traditional recommendations that response anchors should be mixed or that the original wording of instruments should be rigidly followed. Specifically, systematic guidelines for accommodating cultural and contextual backgrounds into instrument design are warranted.


Cultural bias Ethnic minority elderly Response bias 



This study used data obtained from three studies of Korean American elderly in three states (Florida, New York, and Maryland) from 2000 to 2008. Funding sources for data collection include the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH081094), the Advanced Research Institute in Geriatric Mental Health (R25 MH068502), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01 HS13160).

Ethical Statement

The manuscript has not been and will not be submitted elsewhere for publication and the contents of this manuscript are not now under consideration for publication elsewhere. There are no directly related manuscripts or abstracts, published or unpublished, by any authors of this paper. All authors have reviewed and approved the complete manuscript (including tables and figures).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miyong T. Kim
    • 1
  • Ju-Young Lee
    • 1
  • Jisook Ko
    • 1
  • Hyunwoo Yoon
    • 2
  • Kim B. Kim
    • 3
  • Yuri Jang
    • 2
  1. 1.School of NursingThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Korean Resource CenterEllicott CityUSA

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