Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.17, No.2, 2001. pp. 267–284

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Money and Motive: Effects of Incentives on Panel Attrition in the Survey of Income and Program Participation

Panel attrition due to nonresponse is a serious problem for longitudinal surveys because it’reduces sample representativeness and may bias estimates. This article reports the results of an incentive experiment that targeted prepaid monetary incentives to nonresponding households from a prior round of interviewing. Households were randomly assigned to receive a debit card worth 20 USD or 40 USD, or no incentive. 20 USD and 40 USD both significantly improved conversion rates of prior noninterviews. Households in the high poverty stratum were more responsive to 20 USD than households in the low poverty stratum; race and marital status also interacted with incentive effects. Interviewers' notes for experimental cases were coded and analyzed to examine motivational influences on respondents' reactions to incentives. Results show that burden concerns expressed in a prior interview were associated with an announced intention to stop participating in the survey, which led to higher attrition subsequently. Incentive effects were no different for respondents who had complained about the survey's burden than those who had not.

Nonresponse bias; nonresponse conversion; burden; interviewer notes; methods experiment; longitudinal survey.

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