Nonresponse errors

Very few studies ever achieve a 100% response success rate. The problem of non-response error occurs because those who agree to participate in the study are in some respects different from those who decline to participate. Usually, the higher the response rate the lower the probability of non-response error effects. Nevertheless, response rates are not always a good indicator of non-response error. First, response rates do not reflect whether the respondents are good representatives of the target sample. Second, an increase in response does not always lead to a reduction in the non-response error. Third, the notion of response rate is ambiguous since the number of eligible respondents used in the calculation of response rates frequently differs across studies. Unfortunately, the extent of the difference between respondents and non-respondents can seldom be directly determined (see Hahlo5 for a discussion of non-response errors).


• Low response rates: those not responding differ in some way from those who do

• Unrepresentative sample


• Wanting to give an answer that pleases the researcher

• Faulty memory, fatigue or nature of the questions

• Lack of knowledge/familiarity with subject matter

• Wanting to give socially acceptable answers

• Interviewer influence

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