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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Webinar Details

Defining Hard-to-Survey Populations and Measuring the Difficulty

Roger Tourangeau, PhD

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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About this Course


This webinar provides a conceptual framework for studying “hard-to-survey” populations.   This term has been applied to a wide range of populations, who exhibit a variety of different characteristics that make them difficult to survey. For example, there are many papers in the sampling literature on methods for sampling rare populations—low prevalence populations that must be selected from a general population sampling frame. Other populations are difficult to survey because they are widely scattered, inaccessible or highly mobile. This course explores the different dimensions that make populations hard to survey and also examines metrics that have been used to quantify the different sources of difficulty.

We distinguish populations that are hard to sample, those whose members who are hard to identify, those that are hard to find or contact, those whose members are hard to persuade to take part, and those whose members are willing to take part but nonetheless hard to interview. These distinctions reflect the main steps in many surveys, beginning with sampling and ending with data collection. The course also explores proposed metrics for measuring the difficulties in each operation during a survey and more general metrics of difficulty, such as the hard-to-count index developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Learning Objectives:

  • To provide a deeper understanding of the dimensions that make populations hard to survey;
  • To cover the various metrics used to assess the degree of difficulty encountered at each major survey operation; and
  • To explore the underlying factors that make some populations harder to survey than others.

About the Instructor

ImageRoger Tourangeau, PhD, is a Vice President and Associate Director at Westat, one of the largest survey firms in the United States. Before joining Westat, he was Research Professor at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and the Director of the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland. He has been a survey methodologist for nearly 30 years. He is an author on more than 70 research articles. He is the lead editor of the volume (Hard-to-Survey Populations), to be published by Cambridge University Press, coming out of the recent International Conference on Methods for Surveying and Enumerating Hard-to-Reach Populations.  His earlier book (The Psychology of Survey Response, with Lance Rips and Kenneth Rasinski) received the 2006 Book Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). In 2002, he received the Helen Dinerman Award, the highest honor given by the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). He was also elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1999. In 2006, he served as the chair of the Survey Research Methods Section of the American Statistical Association. He has a PhD in Psychology from Yale University.