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Cognitive Pretesting of the 2015 CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement

Rodney L. Terry and Aleia Clark Fobia


In an interagency project between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the bureau’s Center for Survey Measurement conducted cognitive interview research on the Computer and Internet Use Supplement (CIUS). The CIUS, which has been administered periodically since 1994, is a supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The primary purpose of the cognitive testing research was to test new and revised questions in the CIUS. The secondary purpose was to gain qualitative insight into why the Hispanic population showed a particularly large decrease in computer use from 2012 to 2013 in CIUS data. Two iterative rounds of testing were conducted, with 15 respondents interviewed each round.

Overall, results from both rounds showed that respondents were able to answer most questions with little to no difficulty. In Round 1, the questions that were problematic did not clearly account for some common situations, or had computing or Internet technology terms that were too technical for the respondent to understand. Furthermore, most respondents used recall periods for computer and Internet use that were longer than the intended recall period. In Round 2, revisions of the CIUS resulted in questions that better accounted for common situations, and the revised instructions better prompted respondents to use the intended recall period. In addition, while the Hispanic respondents in this study understood the question s and response categories as well as the non-Hispanic respondents, they identified technology terms during debriefing that would be difficult to translate for Spanish speakers who know little to no English. The results of these cognitive interviews helped inform development of the 2015 CIUS, which was implemented in the field in July 2015.


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