Academic journal article Journal of Rural Social Sciences

Effectiveness of the Drop-Off/pick-Up Survey Methodology in Different Neighborhood Types *

Academic journal article Journal of Rural Social Sciences

Effectiveness of the Drop-Off/pick-Up Survey Methodology in Different Neighborhood Types *

Article excerpt

For over a century social scientists have relied on the use of probability sampling and surveys to gather information and make inferences about characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors of larger populations of individuals, households or organizations. To be most effective, probability sample surveys need to draw a scientific sample from a sampling frame that has nearly complete coverage of the target population and achieve high response or low refusal rates from sampled units (Dillman, Smyth, and Christian 2014).

For most of the 20th century, face-to-face interviews were the most widely used and 'gold-standard' approach to surveys, though telephone and mail modes aided by random digit dialing and lower cost per response became much more common over the last 40 years (Stern, Bilgen, and Dillman 2014). There is growing concern among academic and governmental researchers that response rates to all three modes of survey research have been declining (Baruch 1999; Baruch and Holtom 2008; Brick and Williams 2013; Groves 2006; Massey and Tourangeau 2013; Singer 2006). Tourangeau (2004) argues that changes in societal attitudes toward privacy and confidentiality, the rise of telemarketers and cell phones, shifts in housing types (e.g., more locked or gated homes), and demographic trends (an aging white population and increasingly diverse young population) have combined to make faceto- face and telephone survey modes, in particular, more difficult.

Given these challenges, it is increasingly accepted that self-administered surveys are likely to be a dominant mode for social science research in the coming decades (Stern et al. 2014). There are a variety of modes for the delivery and return of self-administered surveys. Beyond sending and returning surveys by mail, there is growing interest in web- or email-based recruitment and survey administration, though coverage problems can be more serious and response rates to web-surveys have yet to match those attainable by mail surveys (Dillman et al. 2009; Messer and Dillman 2011; Shih and Fan 2008). This paper uses a recent major Drop-Off/Pick- Up (DOPU) survey to explore the impacts of both implementation method and neighborhood context on the cooperation and response rates1 to a major household survey.

The Drop-Off/Pick-Up Method

One less frequently used but promising mode of survey administration involves the use of personal or hand-delivery of self-administered surveys to sampled units, with either an in-person retrieval or use of postal mail to return completed surveys. While more time and resource intensive than many other survey techniques, variations on the DOPU method typically result in higher completion rates (Riley and Kiger 2002; Steele et al. 2001), thus reducing potential problems associated with nonresponse bias (Singer 2006).

The DOPU method is based on social exchange theory in which personal interactions provide a basis to stimulate norms of reciprocity and exchange that increase the chances a respondent will accept and complete the survey (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005; Dillman et al. 2014). Personal interactions between the field staffand the respondent can also allow them to address respondent questions and concerns, and to adapt their 'pitch' to increase the saliency and leverage to boost cooperation rates (Groves, Singer, and Corning 2000). This is usually accomplished by having survey field staffrepeatedly attempt to contact an eligible respondent at each sampled address, when they can introduce themselves and personally explain the importance of the study and the potential benefits to the respondent (Allred and Ross-Davis 2011; Riley and Kiger 2002). Usually the field worker arranges to return at a specific time and date to pick up the survey, which invokes both social obligations and reduces the effort or transaction costs required to receive and return the survey instrument (Steele et al. 2001).

Variation in DOPU Methods

Because it involves actual visits to each sampled unit by field staff, the DOPU method is more suited to situations where the target population is geographically concentrated (often within a few neighborhoods, towns or counties). …

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