Estimating Bias Due to Nonresponse in Mail Surveys

  • Filion F
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A procedure for minimizing nonresponse error in a self-administered mail water-fowl harvest survey was tested on a stratified sample of 3,360 Canada Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit purchasers in Ontario. On the assumption that follow-ups probe deeper into the core of nonrespondents, a linear regression model for estimating parameter values of the population while correcting for nonresponse bias was devised using cumulated responses over three successive mailings. It was estimated that nonrespondents who tended to have a significantly lower level of participation and involvement in the topic investigated were younger and resided in rural areas of the province. Nonresponse bias was as high as 14.4 percent for waterfowl kill per day of hunting and 11.1 percent for age of hunters. Results confirm the usefulness of follow-ups of nonrespondents as a means of exploring and correcting for nonresponse error. The author is a research sociologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Envi-ronment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. I NVESTIGATORS ENGAGED in survey research have at one time or another been faced with the problem of nonresponse. It is almost impossible to obtain answers from every person in a large sample no matter what data collection method is used. Assuming that a sample is representative of a population studied, can we assert that respondents do, in fact, represent the sample? If respondents do differ from nonrespondents, the best sample design, based on incomplete re-sponse, may not depict the population investigated and may result in predictions which are inaccurate and misleading. Sociological research points to the fact that nonrespondents often • This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the 9th annual meeting of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in Au-gust, 1974. The findings are based on an unpublished M .A. thesis ("Exploring Methods to Minimize Bias Due to Nonresponse in Self-Administered Mail Surveys," Department of Sociology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 1973) and an unpublished manuscript report ("Estimating Bias Due to Nonresponse in Harvest Surveys," Biometrics Section, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, 1974). The author acknowledges the valuable statistical assistance of Dr. G. E. John Smith and the useful suggestions of Drs. A. R. Sen and Guy Lecavalier. He is indebted to the Canadian Wildlife Service for per-mission to publish the data.

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  • F. L. Filion

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