• Journal Article

The Validity of Randomized Response for Sensitive Measurements


Tracy, P. E., & Fox, J. A. (1981). The Validity of Randomized Response for Sensitive Measurements. American Sociological Review, 46(2), 187-200.


Randomized response is a survey technique for reducing response bias arising from respondent concern over revealing sensitive information. There has been some question whether bias reduction earned through the randomized response approach is sufficient to compensate for its inefficiency. By comparing self-reported arrests for two interview conditions (randomized response and direct question) with corresponding true scores appearing in police arrest files, a field-validation of a quantitative randomized response model was attempted. Overall, randomized response outperformed the more traditional direct-question method. Not only was there substantial reduction in mean response error, but the response error operative in the randomized response condition appeared to be random rather than systematic. A mean squared error comparison of the two conditions appears to assuage the concern over its relative inefficiency