• Presentation

The Impact of Tracing Variation on Response Rates Within Panel Studies


Wallin, J., Considine, K. A., Derecho, A. A., Bibb, B. S., & Carr, C. (2008, May). The Impact of Tracing Variation on Response Rates Within Panel Studies. Presented at AAPOR 2008, New Orleans, LA.


Locating and contacting survey participants is one of the biggest challenges for any longitudinal panel study. Panel maintenance is essential to any panel study in order to produce accurate and reliable data. There are many levels of tracing that can be conducted to increase response rates. There are also many factors influencing the level of tracing a project can employ. One of the most important factors is the budget. This presentation will describe the impact of a 3-tiered approach to tracing on project budget and response rates. The presentation will take into consideration the challenge of locating and conducting interviews with the highly mobile population surveyed in the Accumulation of Wealth and Social Capital among Low-Income Renters (AWSC-R) a 5-year panel study of low- to moderate-income renters conducted by RTI International on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The first year of data collection was conducted as a Random Digit Dial (RDD) study. Interviews were completed by telephone with 1,533 renters and this established the panel of renters for the next 4 years of the study. To maintain the panel of renters interviewed each year, a three-tiered approach was applied to tracing, which included batch tracing, intensive tracing, and field tracing as needed. Each intensive approach is intended to increase response rates, but is also associated with high project costs. The success of any panel study relies on the study’s ability to successfully locate and maintain contact with respondents over the course of the study. The purpose of this paper is to describe the levels of tracing that can be utilized by panel studies to increase response rates. At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to weigh the promises of alternative tracing mechanisms while considering project budget constraints and desired response rates.