BHPS-2007 Conference: the 2007 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 5 July -7 July 2007, Colchester, UK
June 1, 2007
This paper documents the introduction of dependent interviewing in wave 16 of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). Dependent interviewing is a method of designing questions on longitudinal surveys where substantive information, available to the survey organisation prior to the interview, is used to tailor the wording and routing of questions to the respondent’s situation or to enable in-interview edit checks. While the idea of using prior information is not new, dependent interviewing has only become widespread with the spread of computer assisted interviewing, which makes the feeding forward of prior information technically feasible.
The decision to introduce dependent interviewing in the BHPS was motivated by data quality issues and the paper discusses the reasoning behind this decision. A particular aim was to reduce measurement error that leads to cross-wave inconsistencies and hence biases in estimates of change, such as ‘seam effects’ in histories of employment or benefit receipt. Dependent interviewing techniques can be used in several ways to improve cross-wave consistency: by asking about change instead of inferring it from changes in reports; by reminding respondents of previous answers and aiding respondent recall; by feeding forward previously coded open-ended questions (such as occupation and industry) if no change has occurred and reducing coding variability; and by verifying apparent changes compared to previous interviews through post-response consistency checks. Dependent interviewing can in addition improve survey processes by reducing respondent (and interviewer) burden through minimising the number of redundant questions that need to be asked where circumstances have not changed. Reducing redundancies may also improve willingness to co-operate, as well as improving respondent motivation and thereby data quality.
The paper provides documentation for BHPS data users and outlines the implications of the changes made when using the data. The paper also provides information about the questionnaire design, testing process and technical aspects of the implementation, for survey practitioners and methodologists who may be considering implementing dependent interviewing on a longitudinal survey.