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Donald J. Hernandez

The usefulness of data from any longitudinal or panel study that follows and interviews the same respondents over a period of years depends on the assumption that the data represent the relevant populations. Nonresponse by members of the sample is a potential source of bias that can undermine the quality of estimates derived using longitudinal data. This memorandum compares overall response rates between the initial interview and the most recent interview for three major national surveys, the Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) conducted by the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan, and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) conducted by the Center for Human Resource Research at Ohio State University. It also discusses major differences across the surveys in the approaches used to maximize long-run response rates, and the consequences of differential nonresponse for data quality.

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