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Motivating Non-English-Speaking Populations for Census and Survey Participation

Nancy Bates and Yuling Pan
Component ID: #ti2129263805


One method used by survey organizations to encourage survey participation is the provision of advance survey materials to potential respondents. Advance survey materials usually include pre-notification letters and information materials. Such advance materials alert households that a survey is coming, and convey messages about its purpose, data usages, and/or the legal authority under which data are collected. These messages help to establish the legitimacy of a survey and act as additional contact with potential respondents. Previous studies have demonstrated that pre-notification has been an effective technique to improve response rates (e.g., Fox, Crask and Kim 1988, Yammarino, Skinner and Childers 1991, Dillman 1991). As a result, survey organizations routinely send out pre-notification materials in an effort to reduce household nonresponse (Groves 1989). The U.S. Census Bureau has a standard practice of sending out pre-notification letters for its surveys and decennial censuses, and has continuously carried out research to investigate the needs and effectiveness of advance survey materials. For example, Landreth (2001 and 2003) used cognitive interviewing techniques to explore respondents’ interpretations of legally required messages embedded in survey letters. Griffin et al. (2004) and Raglin et al (2004) reported the results from a split-panel experiment with pre-notification letters of the American Community Survey and showed that survey messages crafted in a plain and “respondent friendly” language achieved small but significant differences in mail response rates compared to the standard version.

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