Detail from "the second line," a painting by Bob Graham. For more about the artist, click here.

Online Program

Surveying Hard-to reach Cultural and Linguistic Minorities

Janet Alice Harkness, University Nebraska-Lincoln 
*Mathew Stange, University Nebraska Lincoln 
Kristen Cibelli, University of Michigan 
Peter Philipp Mohler, University of Mannheim 
Beth-Ellen Pennell, University of Michigan 

Keywords: language, questionnaire adaptation, translation, cultural tailoring

What are cultural minorities, what makes them sometimes "hard to reach" (H2R) and how can we improve data quality on them? Do they differ from linguistic minorities? Do the characteristics which make them H2R differ depending on social, cultural, or administrative context or on the language constellations involved? What insights does the literature provide and what is lacking? Do procedures commonly advocated to survey these populations mirror best practice recommendations? If not, how can practical improvements be achieved? What tools help document and improve research quality? Our paper aims to answer these questions. It presents a comprehensive overview of current and emerging quantitative and qualitative methodological research. It draws on a systematic review of literature of methodological challenges in surveying H2R populations, including our own work appraising procedures used in design, translation, adaptation, and implementation for cultural and linguistic minorities. The language(s) preferred by a population are often related to cultural and ethnic characteristics. Thus it may not be possible to distinguish neatly between culture and language, between decisions about the survey language(s) needed and the form of presentation required (mode, vehicle and discourse considerations) or between these and instrument adaptation. Within a population, differences are found depending on location, religion, gender, acculturation, education, and age, for example. We must therefore be wary of sweeping claims which may only apply to certain subgroups of a population. In addition, as we show, language differences may play a major role or be relatively minor considerations for survey implementation. The paper identifies valuable procedures for surveying cultural and linguistic groups, indicates where procedures are lacking or of doubtful value, and points towards emerging research and tools of promise.

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