Low Response Rate Schools in Surveys of Adolescent Risk-Taking Behaviors: Possible Biases, Possible Solution

Weitzman, B.C., Guttmacher, S., Weinberg, S. & Kapadia, F.
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 57:1 , pp. 63-7.

Objectives. This investigation examined the effectiveness of intensive efforts to include frequently absent students in order to reduce bias in classroom-based studies.

Methods. Grade 10 students in 13 New York City high schools (n = 2049) completed self administered confidential surveys in 4 different phases: a 1-day classroom capture, a 1-day follow-up, and 2 separate 1-week follow-ups. Financial incentives were offered, along with opportunities for out-of-classroom participation.

Results. Findings showed that frequently absent students engaged in more risk behaviors than those who were rarely absent. Intensive efforts to locate and survey chronically absent students did not, however, significantly alter estimates of risk behavior. Weighting the data for individual absences marginally improved the estimates.

Conclusions. This study showed that intensive efforts to capture absent students in classroom-based investigations are not warranted by the small improvements produced in regard to risk behavior estimates.

Wagner Faculty