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Census Coverage Measurement 2006 Person Interview Behavior Coding Results

Joanne Pascale

KEY WORDS: census coverage, behavior coding, questionnaire evaluation, census test


In 2006 a large-scale test of the Census was carried out in preparation for the 2010 Census. One component of this test was a “Person Interview” (PI), administered a few months after the census, whose main purpose was to collect information that could be used to determine whether anyone was missed or counted in error in the census, and to assess whether those who were counted in the census were enumerated at the correct address. One method used to evaluate the PI was behavior coding, a method whereby field interviews are tape recorded in order to closely examine the interviewer-respondent interaction. The main purpose of the behavior coding was to assess the extent to which interviewers adhered to standardized interviewing technique, and the extent to which respondents could provide codeable answers to the initial question. Results showed that across all items in the instrument, interviewers displayed standard behavior 49% of the time. Most of the nonstandard behavior was driven by major changes to the question wording (29%), followed by omissions (16%) and then by incorrect verifications (5%). In spite of this rather low level of standard question-reading, respondents provided a standard answer in response to the initial reading of the question 87% of the time, and a standard final outcome was reached 93% of the time. The final outcome, however, only indicates that a codeable answer was provided; it does not necessarily indicate that the question was understood as intended. The magnitude and nature of problems encountered in the first exchange between interviewer and respondent are more informative of comprehension problems and provide guidance on questionnaire improvements. Based on these findings, it was recommended that certain items be modified – generally either shortened, or made less complex by breaking the initial question into multiple but simpler questions. For other items recommendations were made to modify training.


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

Created: July 17, 2007
Last revised: July 17, 2007

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