Exhaustive or Exhausting? Evidence on Respondent Fatigue in Long Surveys
Living standards measurement surveys require sustained attention for several hours. We quantify survey fatigue by randomizing the order of questions in 2-3 hour-long in-person surveys. An additional hour of survey time increases the probability that a respondent skips a question by 10-64%. Because skips are more common, the total monetary value of aggregated categories such as assets or expenditures declines as the survey goes on, and this effect is sizeable for some categories: for example, an extra hour of survey time lowers food expenditures by 25%. We find similar effect sizes within phone surveys in which respondents were already familiar with questions, suggesting that cognitive burden may be a key driver of survey fatigue.
We thank USAID for funding. We are grateful to Jenny Aker for her collaboration and to Sanjana Gupta for outstanding research assistance. For organizing the data collection, we thank Joseph Davis, Arja Dayal, Wilson Dorleleay, Walker Higgins, Andreas Holzinger, Erik Jorgensen, Teresa Martens, Laura McCargo and Camelia Vasilov at IPA Liberia, and Patrick Baxter, Emanuele Clemente, Calvin Mhango, Monica Shandal, Patrick Simbewe, and Asman Suleiman at IPA Malawi. We are extremely grateful to all the enumerators who collected this data in both countries, though there are too many to list individually. We thank seminar participants at UCSC and the IPA-GPRL Methods Conference for helpful comments. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of USAID, the World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Dahyeon Jeong & Shilpa Aggarwal & Jonathan Robinson & Naresh Kumar & Alan Spearot & David Sungho Park, 2022. "Exhaustive or exhausting? Evidence on respondent fatigue in long surveys," Journal of Development Economics, .