Examining Cultural Differences in Question Comprehension using Latent Variable Models

26.3. 2019, 13:00 Uhr

Mannheim, B2,1

Prof. Timothy Johnson


A growing body of research is now available that documents cultural variability in the comprehension of survey questions. This work has relied on several different methodologies, including focus groups, cognitive interviewing, and behavior coding. Each of these strategies have some known limitations, which may call into question the reliability and validity of empirical findings. This talk will present unique cross-cultural comparisons based on latent variables that are constructed using question response level data derived from both verbal and non-verbal behavior coding and response latency indicators. These data are derived from a study in which 400 respondents from four different cultural groups residing in Chicago (African Americans, Korean Americans, Mexican Americans, and non-Hispanic whites) participated in laboratory interviews that were digitally recorded, and subsequently coded to develop unique sets of respondent comprehension difficulties answering a set of health-related survey items that are based on (a) verbal behavior codes, (b) non-verbal behavior codes, and (3) latent response times. These various indicators are employed to construct latent measures of respondent comprehension difficulties, which are then compared across-cultural groups while controlling for other respondent level and question level variables, using multi-level structural equation modeling. Findings from these analyses will be compared to previous findings in the research literature and their utility for improving our understanding of cultural variability in survey question comprehension will be discussed.

About the Speaker

Tim has been with the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) since 1989, and has served as its Director since 1996.  He is also Professor of Public Administration at UIC, where he teaches courses in survey methodology and data analysis. Other responsibilities including serving as Vice Chair of the Social & Behavioral Institutional Review Board (IRB) at UIC and as Director of Evaluation & Tracking for the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

His personal research has focused on measurement and nonresponse errors in surveys, as well as the social epidemiology of health behaviors in disadvantaged population.  Funding for his research has come from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. He served as President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research in 2017-18 and was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2015.