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This paper expands on previous research that has documented relatively high levels of inconsistency in age information for elderly African Americans. Drawing on a sample of death certificates for Maryland-born African Americans purportedly aged 65-79 at death in 1985, the validity of age data in both death certificates and social security records is examined by linkage to a birth record. The commonly assumed relationship between availability of birth registration and quality of age reporting also is investigated.
Among matches to a birth record, age on social security records is significantly more accurate than on death records. Age agreement between matched death and social security records closely reflects age validity as determined from birth records. Findings based on logistic regression analysis support the hypothesized birth registration effect: controlling for demographic characteristics, persons with a birth certificate exhibited greater age agreement on linked death certificates and social security records (odds ratio = 2.3).2
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