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Cross-cultural measurement is an important topic in social work research and evaluation. Measuring health related concepts accurately is necessary for researchers and practitioners who work with culturally diverse populations. Social workers use measurements or instruments to assess health-related outcomes in order to identify risk and protective factors for vulnerable, disadvantaged populations. Culturally validated instruments are necessary, first, to identify the evidence of health disparities for vulnerable populations. Second, measurements are required to accurately capture health outcomes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for cross-cultural populations. Meaningful, appropriate, and practical research instruments, however, are not always readily available. They may have bias when used for populations from different racial and ethnic groups, tribal groups, immigration and refugee status, gender identities, religious affiliations, social class, and mental or physical abilities. Social work researchers must have culturally reliable and valid research instruments to accurately measure social constructs and ensure the validity of outcomes with cultural populations of interest. . In addition, culturally reliable and valid instruments are necessary for research which involves comparisons with different cultural groups. Instruments must capture the same conceptual understanding in outcomes across different cultural groups to create a basis for comparison. Cross-cultural instruments must also detect and ascertain the same magnitude in the changes in health outcomes, in order to accurately determine the impact of factors in the social environment as well as the influence of micro, mezzo, and macro-level interventions. This reference provides an overview of issues and techniques of cross-cultural measurement in social work research and evaluation. Applying systematic, methodological approaches to develop, collect, and assess cross-cultural measurements will lead to more reliable and valid data for cross-cultural groups.


King Davis and Hyejin Jung

This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.