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Using Contact Attempt History Data to Determine the Optimal Number of Contact Attempts

Adam Safir and Lucilla Tan


The Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Interview Survey (CEQ) expends a disproportionate amount of effort attempting to collect data from difficult-to-interview respondents. Maintaining acceptable response rates, improving sample representativeness, and reducing potential nonresponse bias are factors that drive multiple contact attempts. However, data from difficult-to-interview respondents come at a relatively high cost. In the face of budgetary constraints, a decision to lower the maximum number of contact attempts is one way to reduce overall data collection costs. In this study, we attempt to determine an optimal contact attempt threshold by evaluating the tradeoffs of four fundamental survey performance measures along the continuum of contact attempts: survey response rate, sample representativeness, reporting quality, and cost.