Exploring the Effects of Interviewer- and Self-Administered Survey Modes on Record Linkage Consent Rates and Bias

Joseph W. Sakshaug, Sebastian Hülle, Alexandra Schmucker, Stefan Liebig


In an effort to reduce data collection costs survey organizations are considering more cost-effective means of data collection. Such means include greater use of self-administered interview modes and acquiring substantive information from external administrative records conditional on respondent consent. Yet little is known regarding the implications of requesting linkage consent in self-administered (as compared to interviewer-administered) surveys with respect to consent rates and consent bias. To address this knowledge gap we report the results of a linkage consent study in which sampled employees were randomly assigned to an interviewer-administered (face-to-face) or self-administered (mail or Web) interview in which consent to link federal employment records was requested. We observed a strikingly lower consent rate in the self-administered (53.9 percent) versus the interviewer-administered (93.9 percent) survey mode. However, the impact of mode on consent bias was much less severe as survey-measured correlates of linkage consent did not interact with interview mode. Moreover, while self-administration yielded larger consent biases in the linked administrative variables, on average, compared to interviewer-administration, the average relative magnitude of these biases tended to be small (less than 6 percentage points). We conclude by discussing these findings in the context of survey practice and speculating on their possible causes.


administrative data; informed consent; mode effects; employment survey

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18148/srm/2017.v11i2.7158

Copyright (c) 2017 Joseph W. Sakshaug, Sebastian Hülle, Alexandra Schmucker

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