• Presentation

Offering Cash Incentives to Students in a School Setting: Effects of an Incentive on Student Participation Rates


Herget, D. R. (2005, May). Offering Cash Incentives to Students in a School Setting: Effects of an Incentive on Student Participation Rates. Presented at American Association for Public Opinion Research 60th Annual Conference, Miami Beach, FL.


Obtaining high rates of student participation in school-based studies has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to such trends as increasing numbers of schools requiring active consent, student and school overburden, and the rise in number of highstakes assessments. Additionally, high student participation rates are more difficult to achieve for studies that select student participants at random from a roster as opposed to intact classrooms. The success of these studies typically requires the assistance of school personnel to advertise the study and handle logistical arrangements.

The Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) is a school-based research study that uses a random student selection process. ELS:2002 faced challenges in securing student participation in its base year data collection. As part of the design of the field test of the first follow-up study, RTI implemented an incentive experiment to increase student response rates. Offering an incentive was believed to not only make students more likely to participate but also facilitate school cooperation. Student respondents in half of the field test schools were offered a $20 gift card incentive and student respondents in the other half of the schools were a token in the form of a keychain. It was anticipated that gift cards would result in a higher response rate than a token key ring; this was the result in the field test. Based on the results of the field test, cash incentives were offered for the main study. Gift cards were offered only for schools that did not allow cash incentives for students. This presentation will report on the utility of using cash and gift card incentives to increase student response rates and the implications for other school-based studies. Analysis will include measures of data quality (in terms of item nonresponse) as well as quantitative data about response rates.