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What is paradata?

Paradata is a term used to describe data generated as a by-product of the data collection process.  Types of paradata vary from contact attempt history records for interviewer-assisted operations, to form tracing using tracking numbers in mail surveys, to keystroke or mouse-click history for internet self-response surveys.  Because paradata are a by-product of a given data collection operation, the format, layout and content of paradata are a function of the system that generated the data.  Integrating these data requires a variety of software and statistical tools.  These challenges are worth overcoming, however, as paradata can be informative about the progress, cost and quality of both particular data collection operations and overall survey management.


Why does the Census Bureau need paradata?

Nonresponse in federal surveys increasing as budgets for data collection are decreasing.  In order to gather and provide accurate information on the U.S. population and economy in a cost-effective manner, we need to utilize our resources efficiently.  Paradata can help us identify potential areas of improvement, implement changes, and then evaluate the effect of those changes.

Paradata are used for a variety of reasons across the Bureau, in order to:

  • Measure and limit contact burden in our federal surveys.
  • Time reminder mailings and contacts based on outgoing and incoming mail tracking.
  • Selectively assign data collection features, such as incentives, shorter questionnaires or interviewer assistance to gain cooperation.
  • Assign initial contact mode based on how sample units are likely to respond.
  • Monitor question-screen time to identify survey questions that could be improved.
  • Study the adoption of new technologies, like touch screens, and their effect on survey completion or breakoff. 

Other Subtopics Within 'Research'

Page Last Revised - July 7, 2022
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