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Working Paper Number SPD97-3
Jennifer C. Hess, Jennifer M. Rothgeb

Introduction

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, more commonly known as the Welfare Reform Act, charged the U.S. Bureau of the Census to evaluate the impact of the law. Toward this end, the Census Bureau developed the Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD). The SPD is composed of two distinct parts: one is an interviewer-administered automated instrument to be answered by an adult respondent and the second is an adolescent self-administered questionnaire. In this paper, we describe challenges we faced in developing, designing and testing these two new survey instruments. Development issues include defining the content of this omnibus survey to meet the needs of the legislation and limiting the scope so as not to overburden respondents and exceed budgetary constraints. Design issues include incorporating both household- and person-level questions to improve the efficiency of collecting data, and administering the questions for the adolescent questionnaire with an audio-cassette player (with headphones) to ensure privacy for the adolescent respondent when answering potentially sensitive questions on various behaviors and practices. Testing issues include conducting cognitive interviews from the paper version of the automated adult questionnaire because of a compressed schedule for pretesting the instrument, and conducting cognitive interviews on an instrument designed to be administered by cassette player with adolescent respondents. We will describe the different challenges we faced and discuss how each was resolved.

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