Using Indirect Estimates Based on Name and Census Tract to Improve the Efficiency of Sampling Matched Ethnic Couples from Marriage License Data

Published In: Public Opinion Quarterly, v. 77, no. 1, Spring 2013, p. 375-384

Posted on on January 01, 2013

by Marc N. Elliott, Kirsten Becker, Megan K. Beckett, Katrin Hambarsoomian, Philip Pantoja, Benjamin Karney

Read More

Access further information on this document at Oxford University Press

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

For many sampling applications where study goals require oversampling by race/ethnicity, self-reported race/ethnicity is unavailable. We describe a new method that allows oversampling on the basis of indirectly estimated race/ethnicity when name and address information are available. We adapt a Bayesian method for imputing self-reported race/ethnicity from surname and residential address information for use with marriage license application data in order to improve the efficiency of sampling for a study of newly married low-income Hispanic couples. Marriage license data contain the name and address of both parties, but not race/ethnicity. We used the indirect method to generate predicted probabilities that the couple in question falls into each possible combination of race/ethnicity. These probabilities were used to oversample couples of interest to generate a more efficient (weighted) probability sample than was otherwise possible. Based on Census data, we expected that half of our screened sample would be dually Hispanic; with our method, we obtained a sample for screening that was 92-percent dually Hispanic. This method nearly halved the screening needed yet obtained a probability sample of the target population with a small design effect, substantially improving the net efficiency. The potential gains of this approach are greater for rarer populations, and the methods are applicable to other sampling settings where the characteristics of multiple individuals are relevant.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.