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Working Paper Number RSM2018-09
Alisu Schoua-Glusberg, Gerson Morales, Lucia Lykke, Mikelyn Meyers, Patricia Goerman
Component ID: #ti124225559


The New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS) collects information about housing, housing conditions, payment for housing, and demographic characteristics in New York City. The survey is administered every three years, and in 2017, a Spanish translation of the survey was administered for the first time. This report documents the findings of cognitive testing of the Spanish translation of the survey. In 2016, the Center for Survey Measurement (CSM), in conjunction with research partners, conducted 24 Spanish-language interviews to test the new survey translation. The purpose of these interviews was to determine whether respondents understood the translated questions as intended, to determine whether the translation was culturally appropriate, and to identify possible data quality problems with responses. The sample was stratified based on whether respondents were homeowners or renters. Additionally, some interviews were conducted as “proxy” interviews, in which respondents reported on a vacant unit. Results indicated problems with the translation being misunderstood. For example, respondents misunderstood the survey title in Spanish, and did not interpret the translations for key terms such as “usual home,” “housing development,” “liability insurance,” and others, as intended. Additionally, the translation for “housing unit,” – “unidad” – caused confusion throughout the survey. Other findings included that some long questions, when translated to Spanish, became even longer and therefore confusing and cumbersome, and some English idioms, such as the concept of paying “out of pocket,” were not easily translated to Spanish. Recommendations for improved question and response wording in Spanish are provided.

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