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The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

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  • Moving to Opportunity
  • Volume 14 Number 2
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

Achieving MTO’s High Effective Response Rates: Strategies and Tradeoffs

Nancy Gebler, University of Michigan

Lisa A. Gennetian, The Brookings Institution

Margaret L. Hudson, University of Michigan

Barbara Ward, University of Michigan

Matthew Sciandra, National Bureau of Economic Research

The contents of this chapter are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government, or any state or local agency that provided data.


The Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan successfully led an intensive, long-term, in-person survey for the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing demonstration final impacts evaluation (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011), achieving final effective response rates (ERRs) of 89.6 percent among MTO adults and 88.7 percent among youth, well above what response rates of surveys with comparable low-income populations have accomplished. A variety of survey field strategies ISR employed— careful staff selection, strategic use of financial incentives, and close collaboration between ISR and the National Bureau of Economic Research—all contributed to these high ERRs. The high costs associated with achieving high ERRs for in-person surveys like that employed in MTO raises questions about added value. Costs per survey interview nearly quadrupled during the last 4 fielding months. This extra investment increased the MTO adult survey ERR by only about 3.2 percentage points. A reanalysis of intention-to-treat estimates on selected outcomes suggests the merits of such an investment. If survey fielding had stopped at an 81-percent ERR for adults, we would have falsely concluded that MTO had no effect on two of four key health outcomes, that MTO had no effect on female youth mental health, and that MTO increased female youth idleness.

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