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Mick P. Couper photo

Participation in the Decennial Census: Politics, Privacy, Pressures

Publication Abstract

Couper, Mick P., E.L. Singer, and R.A. Kulka. 1998. "Participation in the Decennial Census: Politics, Privacy, Pressures." American Politics Quarterly, 26(1): 59-80.

Theoretical perspectives on survey participation suggest that survey participation is a form of community involvement, reflecting a sense of civic obligation that also motivates such behavior as voting, serving on juries, and paying taxes. Using data from the Survey of Census Participation (SCP), we investigate this hypothesis with respect to mail response to the 1990 census. We examine such motivating factors as structural and attitudinal measures of alienation as well as more proximal measures of knowledge of and attitudes toward the census and concerns about privacy and confidentiality. We also examine a variety of constraining factors, including literacy, facility with the English language, and available time to complete the form. Using multivariate analysis, we explore the relative effects of these factors on the likelihood of returning the completed census form by mail and discuss the implications of our findings for participation in the census and political participation more generally.

DOI:10.1177/1532673X9802600104 (Full Text)

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