The Effects of a Targeted “Early Bird” Incentive Strategy on Response Rates, Fieldwork Effort, and Costs in a National Panel Study
Abstract Adaptive survey designs are increasingly used by survey practitioners to counteract ongoing declines in household survey response rates and manage rising fieldwork costs. This paper reports findings from an evaluation of an early-bird incentive (EBI) experiment targeting high-effort respondents who participate in the 2019 wave of the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We identified a subgroup of high-effort respondents at risk of nonresponse based on their prior wave fieldwork effort and randomized them to a treatment offering an extra time-delimited monetary incentive for completing their interview within the first month of data collection (treatment group; N = 800) or the standard study incentive (control group; N = 400). In recent waves, we have found that the costs of the protracted fieldwork needed to complete interviews with high-effort cases in the form of interviewer contact attempts plus an increased incentive near the close of data collection are extremely high. By incentivizing early participation and reducing the number of interviewer contact attempts and fieldwork days to complete the interview, our goal was to manage both nonresponse and survey costs. We found that the EBI treatment increased response rates and reduced fieldwork effort and costs compared to a control group. We more »
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NSF-PAR ID:
10334474
Journal Name:
Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology
ISSN:
2325-0984
A prior study found that mailing prepaid incentives with $5 cash visible from outside the envelope increased the response rate to a mail survey by 4 percentage points compared to cash that was not externally visible. This “visible cash effect” suggests opportunities to improve survey response at little or no cost, but many unknowns remain. Among them: Does the visible cash effect generalize to different survey modes, respondent burdens, and cash amounts? Does it differ between fresh samples and reinterview samples? Does it affect data quality or survey costs? This article examines these questions using two linked studies where incentive visibility was randomized in a large probability sample for the American National Election Studies. The first study used$10 incentives with invitations to a long web questionnaire (median 71 minutes, n = 17,849). Visible cash increased response rates in a fresh sample for both screener and extended interview response (by 6.7 and 4.8 percentage points, respectively). Visible cash did not increase the response rate in a reinterview sample where the baseline reinterview response rate was very high (72 percent). The second study used \$5 incentives with invitations to a mail-back paper questionnaire (n = 8,000). Visible cash increased the response rate in a samplemore »