Understanding survey attrition among immigrants in wave 2 of Understanding Society

Publication type

Conference Paper


Understanding Society Research Conference, 24-26 July 2013, University of Essex


Publication date

July 25, 2013


Immigrants, as ethnic minorities in general, have a higher risk of nonresponse in many household surveys (Watson and Wooden 2009, Feskens 2009). This poses a problem, especially when maintaining a panel that should offer large enough sample size for subgroup analysis. Little is known about the mechanisms leading to nonresponse or attrition of migrants. The large number of migrants in Understanding Society—both due to its large sample size and the Ethnic Minority Boost sample—allows investigating in how far factors commonly associated with attrition as well as characteristics specific to migrants help understand their response behaviour.
Using data from waves 1 and 2 of Understanding Society, I analyse attrition amongst migrants in the second wave. The nonresponse process is understood as sequential, consisting of non-contact and, for those contacted, refusal and different factors can affect each of the two stages. I first model household non-contact at wave 2 and then, conditional on contact, refusal to the individual interview. Both models control for small-area characteristics and survey paradata such as whether the interviewer changed between waves.
I find that household non-contact amongst migrants is, similar to that of the UK-born population, determined by factors relating to at-home patterns and residential mobility. Immigrants’ propensity to refuse is influenced by factors relating to nonresponse theories about social exchange and civic duty, but also by their cultural background (proxied by their ethnicity and religion). Even after accounting for these characteristics attrition both at the contact stage and at the cooperation stage is related to time since arrival in the UK. These findings shed light on which factors are important for retaining migrant sample members in a longitudinal study and have implications for fieldwork practitioners.





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