Cover: Response errors in sensitive topics surveys : executive summary

Response errors in sensitive topics surveys : executive summary

Published 1981

by Kent H. Marquis, Naihua Duan, M. Susan Marquis, J Michael Polich, J. E. Meshkoff, Donna S. Schwarzbach, Cathy Stasz

Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback41 pages $23.00

Summarizes, for potential users of survey data, methods and findings from a full study of survey response errors to sensitive topics. An analysis of published measurement studies suggests that the average measurement bias centers on zero for sensitive topic surveys but that responses are very unreliable or noisy. The biasing effects of these response errors for analysis (e.g., on estimates of correlations, regression, transition probabilities, and means) are examined both theoretically and using computer simulation. Simple and complex statistics that describe relationships or change are biased by unreliability as are the statistical inferences. Several strategies for neutralizing the effects of response errors on statistics and inferences are examined. Record checks and reinterviews yield satisfactory corrections in many situations, while internal consistency and instrumental variable approaches were less robust. Randomized response and multiplicity techniques were not effective because they do not address response unreliability.

This report is part of the RAND report series. The report was a product of RAND from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND 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.