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Showing posts from August, 2013

New Objective Functions...

I've argued in previous posts that the response rate has functioned like an objective function that has been used to design "optimal" data collections. The process has been implicitly defined this way. And it is probably the case that the designs are less than optimal for maximizing the response rate. Still, data collection strategies have been shaped by this objective function.

Switching to new functions may be difficult for a number of reasons. First, we need other objective functions. These are difficult to define as there is always uncertainty with respect to nonresponse bias. Which function may be the most useful? R-Indicators? Functions of the relationships between observed Y's and sampling frame data?

There are theoretical considerations, but we also need empirical tests. What happens empirically when data collection has a different goal? We haven't systematically tested these other options and their impact on the quality of the data. That should be high o…

Empirical Data on Survey Costs

I pointed out an interesting (if older) book by Seymour Sudman a few posts ago -- "Reducing Survey Costs" from 1966. There is another book that talks about survey costs -- Groves "Survey Errors and Survey Costs" from 1989.

Groves talks about cost models for a telephone facility. The models are quite detailed. He notes that computerized telephone facilities can quite accurately estimate many of the parameters in the model. He does give a long, detailed table comparing costs for a telephone and face-to-face survey.

Most of the discussion is in Groves' book is of telephone facilities. But the same modeling approach could be taken to face-to-face surveys. The problem is that in that kind of survey, we can't rely on computers to keep track of time that different tasks take. So estimation of the model parameters is going to be more difficult. But, at least conceptually, this would be a useful approach. That would allow us to bring in costs to more facets of the s…

Adaptive Interventions

I was at a very interesting workshop today on adaptive interventions. Most of the folks at the workshop design interventions for chronic conditions and would be used to testing their interventions using a randomized trial.

Much of the discussion was on heterogeneity of treatment effects. In fact, much of their research is based on the premise that individualized treatments should do better than giving everyone the same treatment. Of course, the average treatment might be the best course for everyone, but they have certainly found applications where this is not true. It seems that many more could be found.

I started to think about applications in the survey realm. We do have the concept of tailoring, which began in our field with research into survey introductions. But do we use it much? I have two feelings on this question. No, there aren't many examples like the article I linked to above. We usually test interventions (design features like incentives, letters, etc.) on the whole …

Adjusting with Weights... or Adjusting the Data Collection?

I just got back from JSM where I saw some presentations on responsive/adaptive design. The discussant did a great job summarizing the issues. He raised one of the key questions that always seems to come up for these kinds of designs: If you have those data available for all the cases, why bother changing the data collection when you can just use nonresponse adjustments to account for differences along those dimensions?

This is a big question for these methods. I think there are at least two responses (let me know if you have others).

First, in order for those nonresponse adjustments to be effective, and assuming that we will use weighting cell adjustments (the idea extends easily to propensity modeling), the respondents within any cell need to be equivalent to a random sample of the cell. That is, the respondents and nonrespondents need to have the same mean for the survey variable. A question might be, at what point does that assumption become true? Of course, we don't know. But …

Survey Costs

I'm reading an interesting book, Seymour Sudman's "Reducing the Cost of Surveys." It was written in 1967, so some of the book is about "high tech" methods like using the telephone and scanning forms.

The part I'm interested in is the interviewer cost models. I'm used to the cost models in sampling texts, which are not very elaborate. Sudman has much more elaborate cost models. For example, the costs of surveys can vary across different types of PSUs and for interviewers who live different distances from their sample clusters.

It brings to mind Groves book on Survey Errors and Survey Costs, only because they are among the few examples that have looked closely at costs.

The problem in my work is that it is often difficult to estimate costs. Things get lumped together. Interviewers estimate how much time various activities take. It seems like we've been really focused on the "errors" part of the equation and assumed that the "costs&q…