Special Topics and Emerging Issues in Public Data: Household Surveys in Crisis

3:00 pm EST

Webinar recordings and presentations are available to Members.

Household surveys, one of the main innovations in social science research of the last century, are threatened by declining accuracy due to reduced cooperation of respondents. While many indicators of survey quality have steadily declined in recent decades, the literature has largely emphasized rising nonresponse rates rather than other potentially more important dimensions to the problem. Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago divides the problem into rising rates of nonresponse, imputation, and measurement error, documenting the rise in each of these threats to survey quality over the past three decades.

A fundamental problem in assessing biases due to these problems in surveys is the lack of a benchmark or measure of truth, leading us to focus on the accuracy of the reporting of government transfers. Dr. Meyer will provide evidence from aggregate measures of transfer reporting as well as linked microdata; discuss the relative importance of misreporting of program receipt and conditional amounts of benefits received, as well as some of the conjectured reasons for declining cooperation and survey errors; and end by discussing ways to reduce the impact of the problem including the increased use of administrative data and the possibilities for combining administrative and survey data.

Bruce D. Meyer, McCormick Foundation Professor, University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy