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Responsive Design is not just Two-Phase Sampling

I recently gave, along with Brady West, a short course on paradata and responsive design. We had a series of slides on what is "responsive design." I had a slide with a title similar to that of this post. I think it was "Responsive Design is not equal to Two-Phase Sampling."

I sometimes have a discussion with people about using "responsive design" on their survey, but I get the sense that what they really want to know about is two-phase sampling for nonresponse.

In fact, two-phase sampling, to be efficient, should have different cost structures across the phases. But the requirements for a responsive design are higher than that. Groves and Heeringa also argued that the phases should have 'complementary' design features. That is, each phase should be attractive to different kinds of sampled people. The hope is that nonresponse biases of prior phases are cancelled out by the biases of subsequent phases.

Further, responsive designs can exist without two-phase sampling. Design features can be complementary, have similar costs, and not necessarily be offered to subsets of nonrespondents from the prior phase.

Two-phase sampling for nonresponse was an important innovation. But I'd argue that Groves and Heeringa also came up with an important innovation which is actually different and new.


  1. Regarding the first reason you give about why responsive design is not two-phase sampling: can't each phase in a two-phase (or multi-phase) sampling also be attractive to different kinds of sampled people? The way I see, two-phase sampling is just the method, but you can use different, complementary design features in each phase, so that you attract different types of respondents. In that sense to me, responsive design is not different from two-phase sampling, it's just that the former used the latter to implement it.

    Can you give an example of a responsive design that does not use two-phase sampling, as you suggest in the forth paragraph?

  2. With regard to the first reason, my point is that the sampling isn't a design feature. Something else has to change. The original Hansen and Hurwitz article changed the mode. I find that non-samplers tend to think of two-phase sampling as somehow magic. Almost like a way to cheat on the response rate. So, emphasizing the other design change forces them to think about the possibilities.

    On your second question, if I had a design feature that didn't cost more, then I could at least consider switching the design without sampling. For example, if I want to offer a shortened survey to nonresponders, I don't necessarily have to subsample in order to do this. The sampling is usually related to costs... or rare resources. For instance, you might subsample in order to give the remaining sample to a subset of the "best" interviewers, however, that is defined.


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