Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Incentives and Hard-to-Reach Populations

06/01/2002

As indicated above, members of a group may be hard to interview both because they are difficult to locate or to find at home and because they have little motivation to participate in a survey. There is no empirical evidence that incentives are helpful in overcoming the first problem in a random digit dial (RDD) survey, nor any theoretical justification for believing that they would or should be. Thus, if the primary problem is one of finding people at home for such a survey, incentives may not be very useful. However, an experiment by Kerachsky and Mallar (1981) with a sample of economically disadvantaged youth suggests that prepayment may be helpful in locating members of a list sample, especially in later waves of a longitudinal survey. One reason, apparently, is that prepayment (and perhaps promised incentives from a trusted source) may be useful in persuading friends or relatives to forward the survey organizations advance letter or to provide interviewers with a current telephone number for the designated respondent.

The remainder of this chapter is devoted to reviewing the evidence pertaining to the second reason for survey nonresponse  namely, the situation in which the respondent has little intrinsic motivation to respond to the survey request. This situation is likely to characterize many low-income respondents, especially those who no longer receive welfare payments because of changes in federal and state legislation. Hence, the findings reported in this chapter about the effectiveness of prepaid monetary incentives are especially likely to apply to this population.

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