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Summary of Observers’ Reports from the Re-Engineered Survey of Income and Program Participation Event History Calendar Field Test

Debra R. Miller

KEY WORDS: interview observation, landmark events, questionnaire design, training


The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) Event History Calendar (EHC) field test in April through June of 2008. The field test administered a paper-and-pencil EHC questionnaire to former SIPP 2004 panel sample cases in two sites, Illinois and Texas. The test’s primary objective was to determine whether a SIPP interview conducted via EHC methods, and administered once per year, could produce data of equal (or better) quality compared to the data collected using a conventional “standardized” questionnaire administered every four months, as is SIPP’s current practice. The prototype instrument contained a small subset of SIPP content, focusing on need-based government transfer programs such as Food Stamps. Interviewers completed 1,627 in-person household interviews (for a unit-level response rate of approximately 91%), which yielded 3,318 individual EHC interviews. The evaluation of the field test will focus mainly on a comparison of the data derived from the EHC and SIPP questionnaires collected from the same people and covering the same time period, calendar year 2007. This paper reports the results of another facet of the evaluation – 145 interview observations carried out by 21 observers drawn with one exception from Census Bureau headquarters staff involved in various aspects of the SIPP program (e.g., methodologists, subject-matter experts, processing staff, electronic instrument authors, etc.). The data for this evaluation consist primarily of observers’ responses to a structured “Observation Report” form completed for each EHC interview observed, but also include any more general and unstructured comments that observers offered. The report concludes with an extensive set of recommendations for potential improvements to the EHC methods being considered for SIPP.

CITATION: Miller, Debra R. Summary of Observers’ Reports from the Re-Engineered Survey of Income and Program Participation Event History Calendar Field Test. Statistical Research Division Study Series (Survey Methodology #2008-16). U.S. Census Bureau.

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

Created: November 21, 2008
Last revised: October 2008

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