Hard-to-Survey and Negligible? The Institutionalized Population in Europe


  • Jan-Lucas Schanze GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences




coverage bias, institutions, population statistics, census data, social surveys


In 2011, 1.3% of the European population lived in institutions, such as prisons, refugee accommodations, or retirement homes. The small relative size and their label as hard-to-survey population are two reasons why many social surveys exclude institutionalized populations and cover only those residents who live in private households. Using the latest European census data, the present paper offers a quantitative description of this understudied group with respect to their age, gender, marital status, citizenship, level of education, and economic activity. The paper aims to contribute a basis for future decisions about the eligibility or ineligibility of the institutionalized population by providing guidance in which cases the restriction of the target population might result in coverage bias. Two elements of the function that determines coverage bias are considered: the size of the institutionalized population and its statistical distinctiveness. The results underline the heterogeneity within the institutionalized population. Due to the unequal distribution of the institutionalized population across age groups, I conclude that social surveys should definitely consider extending their target population to the elderly population living in retirement and nursing homes to lower their peril of coverage bias.


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How to Cite

Schanze, J.-L. (2022). Hard-to-Survey and Negligible? The Institutionalized Population in Europe. Survey Research Methods, 17(1), 91–109. https://doi.org/10.18148/srm/2023.v17i1.7830