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Educational Attainment and Vocational/Technical Training: Questionnaire Design and Data Quality

Anna Y. Chan and Jeffrey C. Moore

KEY WORDS: educational attainment, vocational/technical training, measurement design and data quality


This paper examines a redesigned approach to educational attainment measurement in the context of the Census Bureau's automated Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) questionnaire. A split-panel experiment tested two types of revisions of the educational attainment question. One set of revisions focused on vocational/technical training and attainment – specifically, the elimination of the vocational/technical training as part of the standard educational attainment response category list (the current SIPP procedure), and adding separate questions about this type of educational attainment. We experimented with the positioning of these new vocational training screens by placing them either after (in our first and third field tests) and before (in our second field test) the main attainment question. The experimental designs were motivated by prior research suggesting that the “regular” educational attainment of vocational degree recipients varies widely, which suggested the inappropriateness of trying to fix the position of this category in the standard attainment continuum. The second revision added a new question before the standard attainment question to determine whether the person had completed high school or not; the final attainment screen then presented one set of options to those who had completed high school and another set to those who had not. The goal of this approach was to reduce the clutter of response options on the main attainment screen. Results of our experiment favor the one screen attainment question (without the high school graduate/not a high school graduate screener question), and a separate set of vocational training questions appearing after the main question. The separate vocational questions provided useful data on vocational training and yielded a much higher estimate on such training than the standard attainment question where vocational diploma was fixed in its response continuum, but the benefits come at the cost of a slightly higher non-response rate to the main educational attainment question.

CITATION: Chan, Anna Y. and Jeffrey C. Moore. 2003. “Educational attainment and vocational/technical training: Questionnaire design and data quality.” 2003, Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section, Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association/Mira Digital Publishing, CD-ROM, pp. 44-51.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: June 13, 2007
Last revised: June 13, 2007

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010