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In 2008, an initial field test was conducted to determine whether the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) could be conducted using Event History Calendar (EHC) methodology (administered once per year), and still produce data of equal (or better) quality compared to the data collected using a conventional “standardized” questionnaire administered every four months, as is SIPP’s current practice. A paper-and-pencil field test was conducted in April through June in two sites – Illinois and Texas – and collected data covering the 2007 calendar year. The prototype EHC instrument contained a small subset of SIPP content, focusing on need-based government transfer programs such as Food Stamps. Interviewers completed 1,627 in-person household interviews for a unit-level response rate of approximately 91%.
Several evaluation methods are being employed to assess the results. Data derived from the EHC will be compared to production SIPP data collected from the same people for the same time period (that is, the SIPP 2004 panel, Waves 10-12). Both EHC and SIPP data will also be compared to administrative records where possible. Respondent and field representative (FR) debriefing forms were administered at the time of each interview, and a report of those results is currently in preparation. Observers were dispatched to observe live interviews and report on their experiences. A paper summarizing the observers’ reports has been completed and is available at http://www.census.gov/srd/papers/pdf/ssm2008-16.pdf. Finally, after all interviewing activities were completed, focus groups were conducted with FRs in both sites to glean more about their experiences with the EHC field test. This report presents findings from the focus groups.
Topics covered included gaining cooperation, navigating the flow of the EHC and recording answers, managing both scripted and unscripted questions, the landmark events section, and training (see Appendix A for the Focus Group Talking Points). Each focus group lasted approximately two hours. Attempts were made to conduct the focus groups soon after the interviewing was completed, and to keep groups rather small (under 10 people) but due to scheduling constraints some compromises had to be made. Only one session could be held in the Dallas Regional Office (RO). The group included 13 FRs and three Supervisory FRs and the session was held on May 13, 2008. On July 10, 2008, two smaller sessions were held in the Chicago RO with eight FRs in the morning session and nine FRs in the afternoon session. The Texas group included FRs from each of four sites (Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio). Participants in the Chicago groups were determined by assignment area; one group was comprised of FRs whose assignments were in Chicago, and the other of FRs with assignments outside Chicago.
Below is a composite summary of comments across all three groups. The first section (Part A) summarizes interviewers’ comments about general preparation for and administration of the EHC. Part B presents a section-by-section summary of results (note if a given section is not listed it means FRs had no noteworthy comments). Part C concludes with comments on features particular to the EHC interviewing technique.
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