Racial Bias in the Assessment of Cognitive Functioning of Older Adults

TitleRacial Bias in the Assessment of Cognitive Functioning of Older Adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsJones, RN
JournalAging and Mental Health
Call Numberpubs_2003_Jones_Richard.PDF
KeywordsDemographics, Health Conditions and Status

This study was undertaken to determine if the difference in assessed cognition between Black/African-American and White older adults was due differential item functioning (DIF)and/or differences in the effect of background variables. Participants were 15,257 adults aged 50 and older surveyed in the Study of Asset and Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old (AHEAD) and Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The cognitive measure was a modified telephone interview for cognitive status. The analytic strategy was a multiple group structural equation model grounded in item response theory. Results suggest that most (89 )of the group difference could be attributed to measurement or structural differences, the remainder being not significantly different from zero (p 0.193). Most items displayed racial DIF,accounting for most of the group difference. After controlling for DIF, the group difference that remained could be attributed to heterogeneity in the effect of background variables. For example, low education was more deleterious for Black/African-Americans,and high income conferred an advantage only for Whites.These findings underscore the importance of efforts to generate culture-fair measurement devices. However, culture-fair assessments may attenuate, but not eliminate, group differences in assessed cognition due to the incommensurate action of background variables.

Endnote Keywords

Cognitive Functioning/Racial Differences

Endnote ID


Citation Key6861