Can encouraging respondents to contact interviewers to make appointments reduce fieldwork effort? Evidence from a randomized experiment in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology


Matt Brown and Lisa Calderwood

Publication date


One of the main components of survey costs is interviewer call attempts
associated with making contact. This paper describes
an experiment conducted on a U.K. household panel
study, which sought to evaluate whether an “early-bird” approach whereby
participants are encouraged to contact their
interviewer before fieldwork began in order to set up an appointment
could increase
fieldwork efficiency by reducing the number of
calls required. This approach has been successfully used on the National
Study of Youth 1979 cohort for some time but has
not been evaluated experimentally. Our experiment involved two treatment
groups: one group was promised a modest financial
incentive (£5 per participant) to take up the “early-bird” offer and
an interview, and the other received an appeal to
their altruistic tendencies that emphasized that being an “early bird”
make their interviewer's life easier. A parallel
experiment sought to evaluate the impact of differential standard
on response. The early-bird take-up rate was higher
for the incentivized group (10 percent compared with 6 percent for the
non-incentivized group) and was highest when
combined with the higher standard incentive rate (17 percent). Offering
an early-bird incentive and the higher standard
incentive did increase overall fieldwork efficiency, as measured by
required per completed case, but the modest take-up
rates meant that the overall impact was fairly minimal. The paper also
finds indicative evidence that the early-bird
offer, if sufficiently incentivized, could potentially have a beneficial
on response rates.

Volume and page numbers

2, 484-497





Economics, Survey Methodology and Social Psychology


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