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Evaluating a Modular Design Approach to Collecting Survey Data Using Text Messages: Evidence from Nepal

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionWest, Brady T., Dirgha J. Ghimire, and William G. Axinn. 2015. "Evaluating a Modular Design Approach to Collecting Survey Data Using Text Messages: Evidence from Nepal." PSC Research Report No. 15-834. 1 2015.

This research note presents analyses of data from a pilot study in Nepal designed to provide an initial examination of the errors and costs associated with an innovative methodology for survey data collection. We embedded a randomized experiment within a long-standing panel survey, collecting data on a small number of items with varying sensitivity from a sample of 450 young Nepalese adults. Survey items ranged from simple demographics to indicators of substance abuse and mental health problems. Sampled adults were randomly assigned to three different arms: a standard one-time telephone interview, a "single sitting" back-and-forth interview with a live interviewer using text messaging, and an interview using text messages within a modular design framework. Respondents in the modular arm were asked to respond (via text messaging with a live interviewer) to only one question on a given day, rather than complete the entire survey. We find that the two text messaging modes increased the probability of disclosing sensitive information relative to the telephone mode, and that respondents in the modular design arm, while responding less frequently, found the survey to be significantly easier. Further, those who responded in the modular arm were not unique in terms of available covariates, suggesting that the reduced response rate resulted in limited nonresponse bias. Given these promising initial findings, we conclude by suggesting directions for future research and testing.

Country of focus: Nepal.

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