Household Surveys in Crisis

42 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2015

See all articles by Bruce D. Meyer

Bruce D. Meyer

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Wallace Mok

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

James X. Sullivan

University of Notre Dame - Department of Economics and Econometrics

Date Written: July 2015

Abstract

Household surveys, one of the main innovations in social science research of the last century, are threatened by declining accuracy due to reduced cooperation of respondents. While many indicators of survey quality have steadily declined in recent decades, the literature has largely emphasized rising nonresponse rates rather than other potentially more important dimensions to the problem. We divide the problem into rising rates of nonresponse, imputation, and measurement error, documenting the rise in each of these threats to survey quality over the past three decades. A fundamental problem in assessing biases due to these problems in surveys is the lack of a benchmark or measure of truth, leading us to focus on the accuracy of the reporting of government transfers. We provide evidence from aggregate measures of transfer reporting as well as linked microdata. We discuss the relative importance of misreporting of program receipt and conditional amounts of benefits received, as well as some of the conjectured reasons for declining cooperation and survey errors. We end by discussing ways to reduce the impact of the problem including the increased use of administrative data and the possibilities for combining administrative and survey data.

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Bruce D. and Mok, Wallace K. C. and Sullivan, James X., Household Surveys in Crisis (July 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21399. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2636159

Bruce D. Meyer (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
(773) 702-2712 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Wallace K. C. Mok

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

James X. Sullivan

University of Notre Dame - Department of Economics and Econometrics ( email )

Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
24
Abstract Views
254
PlumX Metrics
!

Under construction: SSRN citations will be offline until July when we will launch a brand new and improved citations service, check here for more details.

For more information