Objective: There has been insufficient research on the influence of ethno-cultural and language differences in public health surveys. Using data from three independent studies, the authors examine methods to assess data quality and to identify causes of problematic survey questions.
Methods: Qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this exploratory study, including secondary analyses of data from three baseline surveys (conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese). Collection of additional data included interviews with investigators and interviewers; observations of item development; focus groups; think-aloud interviews; a test-retest assessment survey; and a pilot test of alternatively worded questions.
Results: The authors identify underlying causes for the 12 most problematic variables in three multiethnic surveys and describe them in terms of ethnic differences in reliability, validity, and cognitive processes (interpretation, memory retrieval, judgment formation, and response editing), and differences with regard to cultural appropriateness and translation problems.
Conclusions: Multiple complex elements affect measurement in a multiethnic survey, many of which are neither readily observed nor understood through standard tests of data quality. Multiethnic survey questions are best evaluated using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods that reveal different types and causes of problems.