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Effects of the 1986 Motivational Insert on Census Form Mail Response

Jeffrey C. Moore


This paper describes the design and results of an experiment conducted during an early pretest of the 1990 Decennial Census to assess the potential impact of a brief appeal for census cooperation, in the form of a special insert to census mailing packages. The insert’s messages were designed to (1) address gaps in respondents’ knowledge identified in prior research (e.g., about the purposes and uses of census data); (2) address factors thought to motivate or inhibit census response (e.g., by providing the assurance of confidentiality, and by describing the personal benefits of responding, and the risks of not responding); and (3) assist potential respondents over the hurdle of simply getting started filling out the census form. The results of the experiment suggest quite clearly that the insert produced a significant positive impact on mail response to the census test across all three 1986 pretest sites.


Moore, Jeffrey C. (2010). Effects of the 1986 Motivational Insert on Census Form Mail Response. Statistical Research Division Research Report Series (Survey Methodology #2010-18). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

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

Published online: June 29, 2010
Last revised: October 1, 1986


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