Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Interviewers as Sources of Measurement Error

06/01/2002

For interviewer-administered questionnaires, interviewers may affect the measurement processes in one of several ways, including:

  • Failure to read the question as written;
  • Variation in interviewers' ability to perform the other tasks associated with interviewing, for example, probing insufficient responses, selecting appropriate respondents, or recording information provided by the respondent; and
  • Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics as well as voice characteristics that influence the behavior and responses provided by the respondent.

The first two factors contribute to measurement error from a cognitive or psycholinguistic perspective in that different respondents are exposed to different stimuli; thus variation in responses is, in part, a function of the variation in stimuli. All three factors suggest that interviewer effects contribute via an increase in variable error across interviewers. If all interviewers erred in the same direction (or their characteristics resulted in errors of the same direction and magnitude), interviewer bias would result. For the most part, the literature indicates that among well-trained interviewing staff, interviewer error contributes to the overall variance of estimates as opposed to resulting in biased estimates (Lyberg and Kasprzyk, 1991).

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