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NCES Handbook of Survey Methods - National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES)

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Estimating propensity adjustments for volunteer web surveys. Walker, R.

Utility Surveys - The Essential Guide

Every household survey is subject to some undercoverage bias—the result of some members of the target population being either deliberately or inadvertently missed in the survey. Telephone surveys, such as NHES administrations prior to , are subject to an additional source of bias because not all households in the United States have telephones.

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Raking adjustments can reduce such coverage bias, though no adjustments have been found to adequately reduce the amount of bias across all measures that might be affected by coverage issues. Additionally, as the coverage bias increases, it becomes more difficult for raking to adequately adjust see, e. The NHES sample contains all types of residential addresses in order to ensure the best possible coverage of households in the United States.

The mode of data collection has also changed from an interviewer-led telephone interview to a self-administered paper and pencil questionnaire mailed to respondents. The raking of the person-level weights was still required in order to align the person-level weights with the person-level control totals and adjust for differential coverage rates at the person level. Nonresponse error. Nonresponse in NHES surveys is handled in ways designed to minimize the impact on data quality—through weighting adjustments for unit nonresponse and through imputation for item nonresponse.

Unit nonresponse. Household members are identified for extended interviews in a two-stage process.


First, screener interviews are conducted to enumerate and sample households for the extended interviews. The failure to complete the first-stage screener means that it is not possible to enumerate and interview members of the household. The completion rate for the first stage is the percentage of screeners completed by households. The completion rate for the second stage is the percentage of sampled and eligible persons with completed interviews.

NHES: sampling frame variables were used for the unit nonresponse bias analysis for the screener and topical surveys. Analysis of unit nonresponse bias showed evidence of bias based on the distributions of the sample characteristics for the survey respondents when compared to the full eligible sample. However, this bias was greatly reduced by the nonresponse weighting adjustments.

Item nonresponse.

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  • For most of the items collected in the NHES surveys, the item response rate is high. Measurement error. In order to assess item reliability and inform future NHES surveys, many administrations also included a subsample of respondents for a reinterview. In a reinterview, the respondent is asked to respond to the same items on different occasions.

    In order to limit the response burden of the reinterview program, only selected items are included in the reinterview. The item selection criteria focus on the inclusion of key survey statistics e. The results of the reinterviews are used to modify subsequent NHES surveys and to give some guidance to users about the reliability of responses for specific items in the data files see, e. However, the reinterview procedure does not account for all measurement errors in the interviewing process, such as systematic errors that would be made in both the original interview and the reinterview.

    Bias study.

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    NHES included a bias analysis to evaluate whether nonresponse at the unit and item levels impacted the estimates. For example, if all households were included in the survey i. Since NHES is based on a sample, the bias is defined as the expected or average value of this difference over all possible samples. Unit nonresponse bias, or the bias due to the failure of some persons or households in the sample to respond to the survey, can be substantial if either the difference between respondents and nonrespondents or the unit nonresponse rate is relatively large. The bias analysis included several analyses.

    At the screener phase, significant differences were observed between respondents and the eligible sample in the distributions of characteristics available in or linked to the sample frame. Similarly, for each topical survey, significant differences were observed between respondents and the eligible sample in the distributions of characteristics available in or linked to the sample frame or collected on the screener.

    However, this observed bias was greatly reduced by the nonresponse weighting adjustments. In another set of analyses, base-weighted key survey estimates for each topical survey were compared between 1 early and late screener respondents to assess the potential for bias resulting from screener-level nonresponse and 2 early and late topical respondents to assess the potential for bias resulting from topical-level nonresponse. To the extent that late respondents resemble nonrespondents in the characteristics measured by the NHES survey instruments, differences between early and late respondents suggest a potential for unit nonresponse bias in the estimates.

    In another set of bias analyses, key survey estimates using the base weights and key estimates using the nonresponse adjusted weights were compared. Only a small number of measurable differences were observed. This suggests that few of these variables were powerful predictors of unit response.