The Challenges of Locating Young Adults for a Longitudinal Study: Improved Tracing Strategies Implemented for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Wave IV
Meehan, A., Saleska, E. L., Kinsey, N. L., Hinsdale-Shouse, M. A., & Tischner, C. (2009, May). The Challenges of Locating Young Adults for a Longitudinal Study: Improved Tracing Strategies Implemented for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Wave IV. Presented at AAPOR 2009, .
Maintaining the integrity of the sample for a longitudinal study is key to its success. For a longitudinal study involving a young cohort with long periods of time between waves, like the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the need for effective tracking is underscored. Add Health is unique in that sample members are followed throughout the study regardless of past participation. Since young adults are traditionally difficult to locate because they move frequently, the five to six years between waves of Add Health has meant multiple moves for many sample members since our last contact.
Add Health is a study of over 20,000 individuals who were first interviewed in 1994-1995. Three waves of in-home interviews were conducted in 1995, 1996, and 2001-2002. Add Health Wave IV began in 2008 with a cohort ages 24 to 32 years old. Approximately 1,880 of the Wave IV sample members had not been interviewed since 1995.
During Wave III, 85% of the sample was located. To increase the locate rate in Wave IV, we developed tracing steps that enhanced traditional tracing methods and improved upon methods used previously. The Wave IV plan included the development of an electronic locating system, which served as a central location for all contact information in a secured system on field laptops.
We will analyze the locating rates between Waves III and IV; we will also analyze the impact of various factors such as the availability of SSNs, when the sample member last participated and the likelihood of participation based on previous participation in Waves III and IV. We will also examine the success of specific tracing strategies and describe how enhanced tracing methods such as the creation of an electronic locating system helped maintain the sample for this large-scale national survey.