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Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure
sources. It is therefore critical for respondents to understand that each of the questions is limited by the constrained economic resource condition. The questionnaire uses several different terms to describe these constraints, including “before we got money to buy more,” “didn’t have/wasn’t enough money,” “couldn’t afford,” and “running out of money.” Providing reference to the condition in a consistent manner throughout the supplement, in contrast, would reduce the burden on the respondent. In addition, the concept should be introduced to the respondent prior to the questions so as to frame the full set of questions.
Specification of the Reference Person(s)
Cognitive research indicates that questions should be grouped by the topic and reference person of interest. Throughout the FSS, including the HFSSM, the reference unit shifts among the household, the children in the household, the adults in the household, and the reference person. In addition, for many of the questions, the reference person or persons is ambiguous.
Both conceptually and analytically, these shifts in the reference person present problems for the respondent as well as in the interpretation of responses. Since food security or insecurity is a household-level phenomenon, the operationalization of the concept should be reflected in household-level questions. Similarly, if the concept of insufficient intake or hunger is an individually experienced phenomenon, questions should address the individual.4
In addition to the conceptual and analytic issues noted above, the specification of the reference person in the Food Security Supplement poses several challenges for respondents:
The unit referred to by the question changes across questions. The unit is variously the household (e.g., “Was that often true, sometimes true, or never true for you/your household?”), adults in the household (e.g., “In the last 12 months, did (you/you or other adults in your household) ever cut the size of your meals or skip meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?”), the respondent (e.g., “In the last 12 months, since December of last year, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?” and “In the last 12
Although a number of questions ask specifically about the experience of the respondent, the data cannot be used to produce unbiased estimates because the respondent to the supplement is not randomly selected.