The Use of Email in Establishment Surveys

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Langeland, Joshua Lee
Abraham, Katharine
Wagner, James
This dissertation evaluates the effectiveness of using Email for survey solicitation, nonresponse follow-up, and notifications for upcoming scheduled interviews in an establishment survey setting. Reasons for interest in the use of Email include the possibility that it could reduce printing and postage expenses, speed responses and encourage online reporting. To date, however, there has been limited research on the extent to which these benefits can in fact be realized in an establishment survey context. In order to send an Email for survey purposes, those administering a survey must have Email addresses for the units in the sample. One method for collecting Email addresses is to send a prenotification letter to sampled businesses prior to the initial survey invitation, informing respondents about the upcoming survey and requesting they provide contact information for someone within the organization who will have knowledge of the survey topic. Relatively little is known, however, about what makes a prenotification letter more or less effective. The first experiment on which this dissertation reports varies the content of prenotification letters sent to establishments selected for participation in a business survey in order to identify how different features affect the probability of obtaining a respondent's Email address. In this experiment, neither survey sponsorship, appeal type, nor a message about saving taxpayer dollars had a significant impact on response. The second experiment is a pilot study designed to compare the results of sending an initial Email invitation to participate in an establishment survey to the results of sending a standard postal invitation. Sampled businesses that provided an Email address were randomized into two groups. Half of the units in the experiment received the initial survey invitation by Email and the other half received the standard survey materials through postal mail; all units received the same nonresponse follow-up treatments. The analysis of this experiment focuses on response rates, timeliness of response, mode of response and cost per response. In this production environment, Email invitations achieved an equivalent response rate at reduced cost per response. Units receiving the Email invitation were more likely to report online, but it took them longer on average to respond. The third experiment built on the second and was an investigation into nonresponse follow-up procedures. In the second experiment, at the point when the cohort that received the initial survey invitation by Email received their first nonresponse follow-up, there was a large increase in response. The third experiment tests whether this large increase in response can be achieved by sending a follow-up Email instead of a postal reminder. Sampled units that provided an Email address were randomized into three groups. All units received the initial survey invitation by Email and all units also received nonresponse follow-ups by Email. The treatments varied in the point in the nonresponse follow-up period at which the Emails were augmented with a postal mailing. The analysis focuses on how this timing affects response rates and mode of response. The sequence that introduced postal mail early in nonresponse follow-up achieved the highest final response rate. All mode sequences were successful in encouraging online data reporting. The fourth and final experiment studies the use of Email in a monthly business panel survey conducted through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). After the first month in which an interviewer in this survey collects data from a business, she schedules a date to call and collect data the following month. The current procedure is to send a postcard to the business a few days prior to the scheduled appointment to serve as a reminder of the upcoming interview. The fourth experiment investigates the effects of replacing this reminder postcard with an Email. Businesses in a sample that included both businesses for which the survey organization had an Email address and businesses for which no Email address was available were randomized into three groups. The first group acts as the control and received the standard postcard; the second group was designated to receive an Email reminder, provided an Email address was available, instead of the postcard; and the third group received an Email reminder with an iCalendar attachment instead of the postcard, again provided an Email address was available. Results focus on response rates, call length, percent of units reporting on time, and number of calls to respondents. The experiment found that the use of Email as a reminder for a scheduled interview significantly increased response rates and decreased the effort required to collect data.