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Because age is associated with many biological and social phenomena, accurate age data are critical for researchers exploring the societal impact of population aging and for policy makers deciding how to best allocate resources to this burgeoning group. Of particular importance is the quality of age data for the rapidly expanding elderly population. Past research has shown the quality of these data to be questionable for the U.S. elderly population, particularly for African-Americans (Hambright 1969; Kestenbaum 1992; National Center for Health Statistics [NC HS] 1968; Rosenwaike 1979; Rosenwaike and Logue 1983). A recent study comparing 1987 death certificates from Massachusetts and Texas with matched Social Security/Medicare files, for example, found exact age agreement in the two data sources for 94.6% of non-Hispanic whites aged 65 and over but only for 72. 6% of African Americans (Kestenbaum 1992: Table 4). Age agreement deteriorated more rapidly with advancing age among blacks than among whites; for those aged 85 and over, exact age agreement was found for 91.7% of non-Hispanic whites compared with only 63.2% of African Americans.
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