NLSY79 Appendix 26: Non-Response to Financial Questions and Entry Points

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1979 Cohort

NLSY79 Appendix 26: Non-Response to Financial Questions and Entry Points

Financial questions often elicit from respondents either a "refusal" or a "don't know" response. From 1979 to 2000 the NLSY79 interviewers faced with a "refusal" or a "don't know" simply went on to the next question. Starting in 2002, respondents have been asked to estimate financial values if they could not provide an exact value.

To determine which of several methods of estimation was best for financial questions, an "income experiment" was run during the 2002 survey. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of three methods (unfolding bracket, nearest $10k, range) when they stated "don't know" or "refused" to an income question. Additionally, among respondents who were given unfolding brackets, some respondents were given relatively high starting points (referred to as the 60 percent group) or relatively low starting points (referred to as the 40 percent group). See Table 1 for the numeric totals.

User Note

Researchers interested in knowing which starting point a respondent was selected to receive should look at question GEN_INIT14A, which has the title "Entry Point For Income Experiments 40 Percent Or 60 Percent?"

First, some respondents were asked for a range of values. A second group of respondents was asked if they could provide an answer within $10,000. Third, some respondents were asked to place the value within "unfolding brackets," bracketing the range in which the true value fell.

The first method, the range of values questions, asks respondents to define a lower and upper bound value. Examining the data suggest that some respondents give quite precise bounds. When a respondent gives a range, researchers should note that the upper and lower bound variables are not always in the correct order. The survey always asks for the upper bound first and the lower bound second. However, if a respondent gives the smaller number first, that number will be typed into the upper bound variable and the range values will be reversed.

The second method, reporting a value to within the nearest $10,000, is designed to tell the respondent that a rough figure is an acceptable answer. Extreme precision is not demanded for these estimates.

The third method, unfolding brackets, lets respondents report if the amount is above or below a particular value. The initial value the respondent is given to compare is called the "entry point." The list of all entry points used by the NLSY79 survey since 2002 is found in Table 2 and Table 3 at the end of this appendix.

For example, the entry point for the value of a vehicle is $20,000. If the answer to the entry point question is neither a "refusal" nor a "don't know" then the respondent is asked one more "is the value above or below" question. This results in a series of four brackets that provide researchers with a rough idea of the range into which the item's value falls. Researchers should be cautioned that while three of the brackets have a defined range, the top range is open-ended.

User Note

Researchers interested in knowing the type of question a respondent was selected to receive in the 2002 experiment should look at question HH_INC_3_EXP, which has the title "Type of question R assigned for household interview income recall experiment."

Example:

An example of how item non-response to financial questions is handled is seen in the questions that ask about income from the military in the 2002 survey.

Question Q13-16_TRUNC asked respondents "About how much total income your spouse or partner received during 2001 from the military before taxes and other deductions?" If the respondent was unable to provide a specific amount, the respondent was assigned in Q13-16_EXP to one of three alternative methods to try to solicit an estimate.

In question Q13-16_E~000001 some respondents were asked if they could provide "an approximate range for that amount." If the respondent could provide a range, both the upper and lower bound values were captured.

Some respondents were asked in question Q13-16_D, "To the nearest $10,000, can you tell me about how much your spouse or partner received during 2001, from the military before taxes and other deductions?"

In question Q13-16_A some respondents were asked "Would it amount to [entry point military income] or more?" Looking at Table 2 shows that "entry point military income" has the value of either $15,000 or $30,000. This results in the interviewer asking if the income was more or less than these amounts. If the respondent stated less than $15,000 or $30,000 s/he was asked one last question "would it amount to $5,000 or more." If the respondent stated more than $15,000 or $30,000 s/he was asked "would it amount to $40,000 or more."

These questions resulted in the researcher being able to classify respondents who do not know the military pay received by their spouse into four groups; $0 to $5,000, $5,000 to $15,000/$30,000, $15,000/$30,000 to $40,000 and over $40,000. The specific entry points and symbol names for all income and asset questions used in the bracketing questions are found in Tables 2 and 3.

Table 1: Number of Respondents Assigned to Income Experiment Groups

Year

R in 40% Group

R in 60% Group

2002

3,844

3,878

2004

3,802

3,859

2006

3,851

3,803

Table 2: Entry Points for NLSY79 Income and Assets Section in 2002 and 2004

Type

Variable Name

40% Amount

60% Amount

Wages and Salary

entry pt wage inc

$25,000

$35,000

Military Income

entry pt military inc

$15,000

$30,000

Business Income

entry pt business inc

$10,000

$20,000

Public Assistance and Welfare

entry pt pub assistance inc

$5,000

$7,500

Child Support

entry pt ch supt inc

$2,500

$4,000

Educational Benefits and Scholarships

entry pt educ benefits inc

$1,500

$3,000

Inheritances and Gifts

entry pt inheritance inc

$3,000

$10,000

Other Income

entry pt other inc

$500

$1,000

Earned Income Tax Credit

entry pt eitc inc

$1,000

$2,000

Other Household Members Income

entry pt other hh mems inc

$10,000

$20,000

Table 3: Entry Points for NLSY79 Income and Assets Section in 2006-2012

Type

Variable Name

40% Amount

60% Amount

Wages and Salary

entry pt wage inc

$28,000

$40,000

Military Income

entry pt military inc

$14,000

$24,000

Business Income

entry pt business inc

$10,000

$20,000

Public Assistance and Welfare

entry pt pub assistance inc

$5,000

$7,500

Child Support

entry pt ch supt inc

$3,000

$4,800

Educational Benefits and Scholarships

entry pt educ benefits inc

$1,800

$3,000

Inheritances and Gifts

entry pt inheritance inc

$5,500

$12,500

Other Income

entry pt other inc

$7,200

$13,000

Earned Income Tax Credit

entry pt eitc inc

$1,200

$2,000

Other Household Members Income

entry pt other hh mems inc

$7,200

$13,000

 

User Note

Almost all questions in the Asset section the same entry point. For example, in the 2004 survey the entry point was "entry pt other hh mems inc," which has the value of $10,000 or $20,000. This entry point value is quite low for certain categories. For instance, homeowners who do not know the value of their primary residence were asked if it was above or below $20,000. This low entry point value resulted in large number of cases all falling into the same unfolding bracket.