Experiences of discrimination: validity and reliability of a self-report measure for population health research on racism and health

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Oct;61(7):1576-96. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.03.006. Epub 2005 Apr 21.


Population health research on racial discrimination is hampered by a paucity of psychometrically validated instruments that can be feasibly used in large-scale studies. We therefore sought to investigate the validity and reliability of a short self-report instrument, the "Experiences of Discrimination" (EOD) measure, based on a prior instrument used in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Study participants were drawn from a cohort of working class adults, age 25-64, based in the Greater Boston area, Massachusetts (USA). The main study analytic sample included 159 black, 249 Latino, and 208 white participants; the validation study included 98 African American and 110 Latino participants who completed a re-test survey two to four weeks after the initial survey. The main and validation survey instruments included the EOD and several single-item discrimination questions; the validation survey also included the Williams Major and Everyday discrimination measures. Key findings indicated the EOD can be validly and reliably employed. Scale reliability was high, as demonstrated by confirmatory factor analysis, Cronbach's alpha (0.74 or greater), and test-re-test reliability coefficients (0.70). Structural equation modeling demonstrated the EOD had the highest correlation (r=0.79) with an underlying discrimination construct compared to other self-report discrimination measures employed. It was significantly associated with psychological distress and tended to be associated with cigarette smoking among blacks and Latinos, and it was not associated with social desirability in either group. By contrast, single-item measures were notably less reliable and had low correlations with the multi-item measures. These results underscore the need for using validated, multi-item measures of experiences of racial discrimination and suggest the EOD may be one such measure that can be validly employed with working class African Americans and Latino Americans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prejudice*
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires