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Sampling Strategies of a Hard 2 Reach Population in New York: Exploring Sample Tracking, Follow-Up Contacts, & Incentive Increases to Reach 80%

*Sylvia Rachel Epps, Decision Information Resources, Inc. 
Jo Anna Hunter, MDRC 
Denise Herrera, Decision Information Resources, Inc. 
Leslyn Hall, Redstone Research LLC 

Keywords: low-income, minority, longitudinal, incentive increase

The proposed paper will present the successful methodologies implemented to locate, track, and interview 80% of a sample of low-income ethnic minorities in New York. Sample tracking data from the Opportunity New York City (ONYC) Family Rewards study will be analyzed to address the following: (a) How did implementing an incentive increase improve response rates?; and (b) How does the timing of follow-up contacts (i.e., flyers, postcards, phone calls, and field contact) improve response rates?

ONYC tied cash rewards to pre-specified activities and outcomes in children’s education, families’ preventive health care, and parents’ employment. The study focused on six districts (located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Bronx) because they were among the most persistently disadvantaged communities in New York at the time of random assignment. Consequently, these sample members were among the hardest to reach of populations. Compared with the population of New York City as a whole, considerably higher proportions of residents of these six communities relied on public benefits and suffered from higher rates of poverty and unemployment. More specifically, approximately 4,800 families were enrolled in the study. On average, parents were 40 years old; 81% were unmarried; 77% spoke English at home; 51% were Black (non-Hispanic/Latino); 47% were Hispanic/Latino. At the time of random assignment, 53.4% received housing assistance in the form of public housing (30.4%) or section 8 vouchers (23%).

This paper will use sample tracking data from 3 waves of data, collected from 2008 to 2011. Data from approximately 3000 families will be analyzed to address the research questions above. Early results indicate that increasing the incentive improved response rates and that a variety of contact types with a longitudinal sample is particularly important to maintain credibility and for branding. Results will be presented for the overall sample and by various subgroups.

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