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The Importance of Survey Mode in Contacting Hard to Reach Populations: The Case of Spanish Speakers in the American Community Survey
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*Patricia L Goerman, U.S. Census Bureau  
Joanne Pascale, U.S. Census Bureau 

Keywords: Spanish-speaking respondents, behavior coding, data quality

Spanish speakers in the U.S. are a hard-to-reach population in many surveys, such as the American Community Survey, in which they are disproportionately interviewed in the CAPI mode. This makes it crucial to examine differences in data quality by mode. Previous research has shown that Spanish-speaking CATI interviewers, whose work is more closely monitored, may exhibit “standard” interviewer behavior, such as reading questions exactly as worded or correctly verifying, at a higher rate than CAPI interviewers. As part of an ACS Content Test, Spanish and English CATI and CAPI interviews were recorded and behavior coded. We found that interviewers exhibited higher levels of standard behavior in CATI than in CAPI interviews across languages. In addition, English speakers were more likely to employ standard behavior in each mode than were Spanish speakers. We examine frequency and types of problematic interviewer behavior and we compare scripted questions with the new wording used by interviewers. We discuss data quality implications and possible reasons for this interviewer behavior. We conclude with recommendations for measures to improve data quality across languages and modes.

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