Survey Design for TANF Caseload Project: Summary Report and Recommendations. Common Measures Used, Pros and Cons


Housing problem measures varied widely among surveys. The WES and Alameda surveys were the most thorough in their coverage of the topic. Each contained a battery of questions that gathered different information about potential housing problems. The WES asked more general questions on whether affordable housing was available in the respondents community, whether the respondent had been homeless during the past year and for how long, whether he or she had been evicted in the past year, and whether the respondent lost their gas, electricity, or phone service because he or she could not pay the bill.

The Alameda survey asked more specific questions, such as whether the respondent owned or had access to a flush toilet, bath or shower with hot water, cooking equipment, refrigerator, telephone, fire escape, windows that open, curtains or blinds on the windows, enough lights, and electricity. Each item had a follow-up question that asked whether that item worked (that is, it was not broken). In addition, a second set of questions asked whether the respondent had any of the following problems where they currently lived: exposed wires, too few outlets, fuses that blew or circuit breakers that cut out, lead paint, holes in the ceiling or floor, broken locks on doors or windows, rats or rodents, insect problems, plumbing problems, landlord problems with providing heat or hot water, smoke detectors missing or not working, and security bars that would not open.

The Illinois and Missouri surveys contained, respectively, one or two questions about housing problems. The Missouri survey asked whether the respondent had received help with paying the rent in the past year, and whether the phone service had been turned off because the respondent could not pay the bill. The Illinois survey asked whether the respondent had a working telephone in his or her home.

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