Surveying Hard-to-Reach Groups Through Sampled Respondents in a Social Network

McCormick, Tyler H.; Zheng, Tian; He, Ran; Kolaczyk, Eric

The sampling frame in most social science surveys misses members of certain groups, such as the homeless or individuals living with HIV. These groups are known as hard-to-reach groups. One strategy for learning about these groups, or subpopulations, involves reaching hard-to-reach group members through their social network. In this paper we compare the efficiency of two common methods for subpopulation size estimation using data from standard surveys. These designs are examples of mental link tracing designs. These designs begin with a randomly sampled set of network members (nodes) and then reach other nodes indirectly through questions asked to the sampled nodes. Mental link tracing designs cost significantly less than traditional link tracing designs, yet introduce additional sources of potential bias. We examine the influence of one such source of bias using simulation studies. We then demonstrate our findings using data from the General Social Survey collected in 2004 and 2006. Additionally, we provide survey design suggestions for future surveys incorporating such designs.


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Statistics in Biosciences

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March 31, 2015