RAND Statistics Seminar Series

Responsive Design for Household Surveys:
Tools for Actively Controlling Survey Nonresponse and Costs

Presented by Robert M. Groves
Director, University of Michigan Survey Research Center Institute for Social Research; Joint Program in Survey Methodology
Friday, January 7, 2005, 10:30 a.m.
Forum m-1226, Santa Monica
Sponsored by the RAND Statistics Group and the RAND Survey Research Group


Over the past few years, surveys have expanded to new populations, have incorporated measurement of new and more complex substantive domains, and have adopted new data collection tools. At the same time there has been a growing reluctance among many household populations to participate in surveys. These factors have combined to present survey designers and survey researchers with increased uncertainty about the performance of any given survey design at any particular point in time. This uncertainty has, in turn, challenged the survey practitionerâs ability to control the cost of data collection and quality of resulting statistics. The development of computer-assisted methods for data collection has provided survey researchers tools to capture a variety of process data (ãparadataä) that can be used to inform cost/quality tradeoff decisions in real time. The ability to monitor continually the streams of process data and survey data creates the opportunity to alter the design during the course of data collection in order to improve survey cost efficiency and achieve more precise, less biased estimates. We label such surveys as ãresponsive designs.ä This presentation defines responsive design and uses examples to illustrate the responsive use of paradata to guide mid-survey decisions affecting the nonresponse, measurement, and sampling variance properties of resulting statistics.