Effects of Acoustic Perception of Gender on Nonsampling Errors in Telephone Surveys
Kenney McCulloch, Susan
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Many telephone surveys require interviewers to observe and record respondents' gender based solely on respondents' voice. Researchers may rely on these observations to: (1) screen for study eligibility; (2) determine skip patterns; (3) foster interviewer tailoring strategies; (4) contribute to nonresponse assessment and adjustments; (5) inform post-stratification weighting; and (6) design experiments. Gender is also an important covariate to understand attitudes and behavior in many disciplines. Yet, despite this fundamental role in research, survey documentation suggests there is significant variation in how gender is measured and collected across organizations. Variations of collecting respondent gender may include: (1) asking the respondent; (2) interviewer observation only; (3) a combination of observation aided by asking when needed; or (4) another method. But what is the efficacy of these approaches? Are there predictors of observational errors? What are the consequences of interviewer misclassification of respondent gender to survey outcomes? Measurement error in interviewer's observations of respondent gender has never been examined by survey methodologists. This dissertation explores the accuracy and utility of interviewer judgments specifically with regard to gender observations. Using the recent paradata work and linguistics literature as a foundation to explore acoustic gender determination, the goal of my dissertation is to identify implications for survey research of using interviewers' observations collected in a telephone interviewing setting. Organized into three journal-style papers, through a survey of survey organizations, the first paper finds that more than two-thirds of firms collect respondent gender by some form of interviewer observation. Placement of the observation, rationale for chosen collection methods, and uses of these paradata are documented. In paper two, utilizing existing recording of survey interviews, the experimental research finds that the accuracy of interviewer observations improves with increased exposure. The noisy environment of a centralized phone room does not appear to threaten the quality of gender observations. Interviewer and respondent level covariates of misclassification are also discussed. Analyzing secondary data, the third paper finds there are some consequences of incorrect interviewer observations of respondents' gender on survey estimates. Findings from this dissertation will contribute to the paradata literature and provide survey practitioners guidance in the use and collection of interviewer observations, specifically gender, to reduce sources of nonsampling error.