Differential item functioning analysis with ordinal logistic regression techniques. DIFdetect and difwithpar

Med Care. 2006 Nov;44(11 Suppl 3):S115-23. doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000245183.28384.ed.


Introduction: We present an ordinal logistic regression model for identification of items with differential item functioning (DIF) and apply this model to a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) dataset. We employ item response theory ability estimation in our models. Three nested ordinal logistic regression models are applied to each item. Model testing begins with examination of the statistical significance of the interaction term between ability and the group indicator, consistent with nonuniform DIF. Then we turn our attention to the coefficient of the ability term in models with and without the group term. If including the group term has a marked effect on that coefficient, we declare that it has uniform DIF. We examined DIF related to language of test administration in addition to self-reported race, Hispanic ethnicity, age, years of education, and sex.

Methods: We used PARSCALE for IRT analyses and STATA for ordinal logistic regression approaches. We used an iterative technique for adjusting IRT ability estimates on the basis of DIF findings.

Results: Five items were found to have DIF related to language. These same items also had DIF related to other covariates.

Discussion: The ordinal logistic regression approach to DIF detection, when combined with IRT ability estimates, provides a reasonable alternative for DIF detection. There appear to be several items with significant DIF related to language of test administration in the MMSE. More attention needs to be paid to the specific criteria used to determine whether an item has DIF, not just the technique used to identify DIF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / ethnology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models*
  • Neuropsychological Tests* / standards
  • Psychometrics / methods*
  • Reference Standards
  • Translating