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Research on Improving Coverage in Household Surveys

Peter Hainer, Catherine Hines, Elizabeth Martin, Gary Shapiro

KEY WORDS: undercoverage, bias, interviewers, participant-observation


A large differential undercount biases census and survey data collected by the Census Bureau. This paper reviews evidence on magnitude and causes of undercount. A recent ethnographic study and other sources of evidence are used to evaluate two sources of undercount. Undercount results if people deliberately choose not to be counted, or if their living arrangements are incompatible with the Census Bureau concept of "usual residence." Both causes result in biased estimates of important social characteristics. We recommend research in four areas: participant observation studies of causes of undercoverage; research on household structure; comparisons of matched data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the census; and research on interviewer training and performance.

CITATION: Peter Hainer, Catherine Hines, Elizabeth Martin, and Gary Shapiro. 1988. "Research on Improving Coverage in Household Surveys" Pp. 513-539 in Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Research Conference. Washington DC: Bureau of the Census

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: October 17, 2006
Last revised: October 17, 2006

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010