Collecting Genetic Samples in Population Wide (Panel) Surveys: Feasibility, Nonresponse and Selectivity

Matthias Schonlau, Martin Reuter, Juergen Schupp, Christian Montag, Bernd Weber, Thomas Dohmen, Nico A. Siegel, Uwe Sunde, Gert G. Wagner, Armin Falk


Collecting biomarkers as part of general purpose surveys offers scientists - and social scientists in particular - the ability to study biosocial phenomena, e.g. the relation between genes and human behavior. We explore the feasibility of collecting buccal cells for genetic analyses with normal interviewers as part of a pretest for the German Socio-economic Panel Study (SOEP) using a probability sample. We introduce a new non-invasive technique for collecting cell material for genetic analyses and test its quality. We found no technical difficulties in collecting the genetic material and almost all samples collected could be analyzed. However, one third of interviewers reported it was hard to convince panel members to participate. The "biomarker wave" showed no reduction in response rate compared to the previous wave that included no biomarkers and the sample exhibited very little selectivity. We conclude that collecting cell material for genetic analyses with normal interviewers is feasible with no apparent same-wave attrition, though so far we cannot rule out attrition in subsequent waves.


biomarkers; genetic material; surveys; panel studies; non-response

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