Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.3, No.4, 1987. pp. 449457

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The Effect of Prepaid and Promised Incentives: Results of a Controlled Experiment

This study evaluates the usefulness of both prepaid and promised monetary incentives in obtaining cooperation on a self-administered questionnaire. The experiment was conducted among respondents participating in a longitudinal study consisting of both face-to-face and telephone interviews. Three treatments were examined. One treatment group received a check for five U.S. dollars with the questionnaire along with instructions. A second group was told they would receive the five dollar payment when the questionnaire was completed. No mention of payment was made to the third group. The results indicate that a prepaid incentive may increase survey response rates but a promised incentive does not. Respondents in the prepaid category were more likely to return the questionnaire without follow-up calls. The prepaid incentive also resulted in a lower rate of item nonresponse. These findings suggest that the prepaid incentive may result in higher response rates and lower item nonresponse with only a moderate increase in cost.

Incentives; response rates; item nonresponse.

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