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Peek-a-boo: Measuring rare and hard-to-reach populations in the National Household Education Survey of children

*Stacey Bielick, American Institutes for Research 
Andy Zukerberg, National Center for Education Statistics 

Keywords: children, parents, same-sex, spanish

The National Household Education Survey (NHES), sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics, recently experimented with methods for reaching and measuring rare populations in a household mail survey. This paper will describe these experiments and report the results. The rare populations of interest in the NHES are households with preschool and school-age children, Spanish-speaking households, and households with non-traditional family structures, e.g. grandparent guardians and same-sex parents. Households with children constitute 35% of households nationally. NHES used a two-stage mail survey to first screen households for children and then follow-up with a longer topical survey for eligible households. NHES tested 3 screener types in a pilot survey and found a longer screener yielded a higher percentage of households with children but lower overall response than a 1-page screener. We are replicating this experiment in a large field test with a condition that measures response when we ask for the child’s name or not. The pilot study also showed lower response using a bilingual form, but sample size was small. Another field test experiment compares a bilingual form to a mailing containing both a Spanish and English questionnaire for a random national sample and for a large, linguistically isolated sample (n=18,000). We also employed telephone screener nonresponse follow-up to attempt to capture linguistically isolated households that may struggle with the mail survey. For non-traditional family structures, we tested two versions of a series of questions about parent characteristics; one version is more traditional in use of wording such as “mother” and “father”; the alternate version targets non-traditional parent structures using the gender and relationship neutral wording “parent 1” and “parent 2” instead of “mother” and “father.” Results from the field test will be available this summer and included in the paper.

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