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Using the American Community Survey: Benefits and Challenges
The panel recommends that research on mode effects on item reporting in the ACS be conducted using appropriate experimental designs. Even though it is difficult to design an experiment that can estimate the pure mode effect on reporting because of the confounding mode effect on unit nonresponse (see Biemer and Lyberg, 2003), some work is possible and should be done, given the centrality of multiple reporting modes to the ACS. For example, a sample of mail respondents could be reinterviewed by CATI or CAPI to compare the two sets of responses, or a subsample of mail nonrespondents for which telephone numbers are available could be sent to CAPI instead of CATI interviewing and their responses compared with responses obtained by CATI.
4-B.1.b Differences in Response Mode for Population Groups
Census Bureau research has shown that households responding by mail in the decennial census differ from households requiring follow-up. Households that respond by mail are more likely to own their own homes and be headed by an older person; they are less likely to be headed by a nonwhite or Hispanic person (National Research Council, 2004b:101-102). Analysis of mail response rates for the C2SS, based on housing units in census tracts with 75 percent or more people reporting a specific race or ethnicity, found marked differences in mode of response by the race and ethnic composition of the tract—see Table 4-1.
TABLE 4-1 Weighted Distribution of Respondents by Mode for Census Tracts with Concentrations of Race and Ethnicity Groups, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey
Population Group (housing units) (weighted)
Response Mode (percent)
Predominantly white census tracts
Predominantly Asian census tracts
Predominantly black census tracts
Predominantly Hispanic census tracts
Predominantly American Indian and Alaska Native census tracts
Total housing units
NOTES: The distributions represent the percentages of housing units that responded by mail, CATI, and CAPI (with CAPI responses weighted to account for subsampling) among the estimated number of housing units that were eligible to be interviewed (excluding nonresidential addresses). The distributions shown apply to housing unit responses in census tracts in which 75 percent or more of the population reported a specific race or ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (2002b:Tables 2, 3, 4).