Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

The Impact of Non-Response Weighting: Empirical Evidence from Modelling Residential Mobility

Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

The Impact of Non-Response Weighting: Empirical Evidence from Modelling Residential Mobility

Article excerpt


The typical size of the population in social science studies makes it impossible to collect data from every unit. A representative random sample may therefore be the best means to make inference and draw conclusions about the population of interest. However, when sample members are selected randomly, they cannot be replaced. Thus, non-response may be a dilemma in some surveys. This is because if there is a systematic difference between respondents and non-respondents, in terms of what the survey is measuring, non-response will distort the distribution of the sample, as it will be biased towards the characteristics of respondents. Therefore, non-response weighting is an important aspect of the survey because it modifies the distribution of the responding sample and makes it similar to that of the selected sample.

Non-response bias pervades estimates more if the cause of non-response is linked to the statistics under investigation. One of the areas in social science phenomena that may be directly linked to non-response is residential mobility (RM). If many non-respondents did not respond because they have moved house, estimates resulting from analyses linked to RM, which will be solely based on respondents, may be biased. Thus, a common controversy in social science is whether non-response weighting can eliminate the potential bias resulting from non-response in the context of investigating RM.

This paper investigates the impact of weighting on estimates relating to the desire for residential mobility. The analysis focuses on the effect of weighting rather than the construction of the weights. While weighting may have an impact on estimates from a large range of analyses, our investigation is limited to estimates resulting from the analysis of the desire for residential mobility. The paper provides a brief background on residential mobility and non-response before illustrating the link between the two phenomena. Our discussion assumes a longitudinal type of survey.

Residential mobility

Residential mobility (RM) is defined as the phenomenon with which individuals change their residence. Many people move house as they change their jobs, partners and personal networks. On the one hand, RM can associate with a few negative phenomena, such as high rates of crime and early school leaving (Tonnessen, Telle & Syse, 2013; Haelermans & De Witte, 2013). On the other hand, RM may have a number of positive impacts on individuals. For example, in a highly mobile population, an individual's social networks are more open and people can make friendships more quickly (see for example Oishi, Lun & Sherman, 2007).

Early research on residential mobility focused on residential dissatisfaction as the main factor influencing decision-making regarding residential mobility (Speare's, 1974). However, research in recent years has shown that residential dissatisfaction may not be the only main factor affecting house moving; characteristics of a neighborhood and household structure may also have a major effect (Deane, 1990; McHugh, Gober & Reid, 1990; Rabe & Taylor, 2009).

In many surveys, respondents who intend to move are asked the main reason for their decision to move. The most frequently reported answers to this relate to: home ownership, housing characteristics, life events and changes in employment status. However, often, respondents can only report one main reason for their intention to move. Thus, other possible factors that may be equally important cannot be identified. In this paper, the analysis is concerned with investigating the determinants of a future desire for moving house, regardless of the main reason reported by the respondent.

Non-response and weighting

Non-response is a failure to collect measurements from sampled members (Groves et al., 2004). The partial failure to collect measurements (i.e. answers are not received for some items in the questionnaire) is referred to as item non-response. …

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