Chasing hard to get cases in panel surveys – is it worth it?

Mark Wooden, University of Melbourne

Mark Wooden

Co Authors
Nicole Watson

Response; Attrition: Fieldwork methods: Panel surveys; HILDA Survey

Obtaining high response rates to population surveys typically requires concentrating fieldwork effort on a relatively small proportion of hard-to-get cases. This paper examines whether this effort is justified within a panel survey setting. It considers four related questions: (i) are the hard-to-get cases that are ultimately interviewed noticeably different from other interviewed cases? (ii) do the cases that require a lot of effort in one survey wave require a lot of effort in all waves? (iii) are hard-to-get cases in one wave simply going to attrit at the next wave? and (iv) is data quality inversely associated with effort?

The data at the centre of the analysis come from the first eleven waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, Australia’s only large-scale nationally representative household panel survey. The HILDA Survey involves personal interviews conducted each year with all adult members of sample households. The fieldwork at each annual survey wave is split into three distinct phases, with each successive phase focusing more intently on the harder-to-get cases, whether they be harder to locate or contact, harder to persuade or harder to interview. For this analysis we define hard-to-get cases as those first worked on in one phase that need to be re-issued to a later phase in order to obtain the interview.