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Abstract
Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.26, No.2, 2010. pp. 287300

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Experimental Studies of Disclosure Risk, Disclosure Harm, Topic Sensitivity, and Survey Participation

Abstract:
This article extends earlier work (Couper et al. 2008) that explores how survey topic and risk of identity and attribute disclosure, along with mention of possible harms resulting from such disclosure, affect survey participation. The first study uses web-based vignettes to examine respondents’ expressed willingness to participate in the hypothetical surveys described, whereas the second study uses a mail survey to examine actual participation. Results are consistent with the earlier experiments. In general, we find that under normal survey conditions, specific information about the risk of identity or attribute disclosure influences neither respondents’ expressed willingness to participate in a hypothetical survey nor their actual participation in a real survey. However, when the possible harm resulting from disclosure is made explicit, the effect on response becomes significant. In addition, sensitivity of the survey topic is a consistent and strong predictor of both expressed willingness to participate and actual participation.

Keywords:
Disclosure, informed consent, survey participation, confidentiality, topic sensitivity

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