ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Getting Respondents’ Attention in the Digital Age

Kymn M Kochanek, Lauren Seward

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 1 - Law Building, Room 024
Date: 2012-07-12 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-04


In 1997, a representative sample of U.S. households was selected from 200 National Frame Areas for the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth – 1997 cohort (NLSY97). Interviewers screened households in all of these NFAs to identify families who had children between the ages of 12 and 16. From these identified families, approximately 9,000 youths agreed to be respondents in the NLSY97. Now ranging in age from 28 to 32 years old, NORC has conducted annual interviews with these individuals since they were selected. The NLSY97 provides significant insight into employment and unemployment trends, schooling, training and transition to work, family formation, and career and earning paths. Because longitudinal surveys, such as the NLSY, track the same individuals over time, the NLSY gives a more in-depth and complete picture of the labor market and provides unique, important insight into the experiences of adolescents as they enter the job market for the first time.

Over the last decade and a half, our respondents have grown from teenagers and adults within a world where computers, smartphones and social media are part of their daily lives. Over the last several waves of data collection, the NLS team has made efforts to modify its outreach efforts, respondent materials and data collection strategies in hopes of encouraging more electronic communication, faster response to and from respondents and ideally faster, less expensive turn around to completing interviews. In the last 5 rounds, we have seen an explosion in the number of emails, texts and web interactions with the NLSY97 respondents and would like to describe our outreach process and report on the early returns and interactions on Round 15 of the survey (2011). We have combined these changes with other fine tunings to our interactions with respondents including the following: using social networking sites to locate and contact respondents, providing more of our materials and communications electronically, formatting those materials to be smartphone friendly, posting web links to timely news articles about how the data is used on the web site, presenting more of information in video format to allow for more user interaction, and adding a QR code to all of our respondent materials and communications. In addition, we have been making simple changes to the callerID and to our outbound dialing to allow for easy redial and the chance to reach a live person rather than voicemail. We believe the cumulative effect of these and other changes to the timing of our outreach, the mode of our contact, our tailoring of contact based on respondent preference, and the refinements of our website are moving the project in the direction that will tighten the respondent’s relationship to the survey, leverage the speed and economy of electronic communication, and provide a strong bedrock of website use that will foster completion when the project moves to web data collection, potentially as early as 2012.

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