to various aspects of the problem of survey nonresponse; the potential solutions that have been considered range from better training and deployment of interviewers to more use of incentives, better use of the information collected in the data collection, and increased use of auxiliary information from other sources in survey design and data collection. In addition, considerable effort has gone into developing weighting adjustments and adjustment models to compensate for the effects of nonresponse.
This report also documents the increased use of information collected in the survey process (paradata) in nonresponse adjustment. Some of this work is in early stages, while other work is more advanced. Two relatively new indicators of the nature and extent of nonresponse bias—representativity and balance indicators—may assist in directing focus on the core of the problem in ways that the traditional measures, such as overall nonresponse rates, cannot.
Several approaches to increasing survey response are being taken or have been proposed. Some of these approaches are aimed at increasing general knowledge about the conditions and motivations underlying response and nonresponse; others are focused on identifying techniques that change the interaction of interviewer and respondent or that could motivate respondents; still others employ paradata to identify possible survey design and management techniques that can be used to positively adjust the collection strategy to minimize the level or effects of nonresponse. As part of these efforts, survey researchers are enriching auxiliary information for both the reduction of nonresponse and adjustment for it, exploring matrix sampling (“planned missingness”) and other strategies to reduce burden, exploring mixed-mode alternatives for data collection, and deploying responsive or adaptive designs.
The research agenda proposed in this report is needed to develop even better approaches to improve survey response and to improve our ability to use the data for analytical purposes even when response rates cannot be efficiently improved. The agenda should be multifaceted. In these times of increasingly constrained human and financial resources in the social science survey community, this agenda must be mindful of both costs and benefits.
Based on the panel’s assessment of the state of knowledge about the problem of nonresponse in social surveys, the report suggests several key research areas in which the statistical community could fruitfully invest resources. Some of the recommended agenda items are designed to further advance our knowledge of the scope and extent of the problem, others to enhance our understanding of the relationship between response rates and bias, and still others to improve our ability to address the problems that come with declining response rates.
The recommendations for research include basic research that would