Non-response to a life course socioeconomic position indicator in surveillance: Comparison of telephone and face-to-face modes

Catherine R. Chittleborough, Anne Taylor, Fran E. Baum, Janet E. Hiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Measurement of socioeconomic position (SEP) over the life course in population health surveillance systems is important for examining differences in health and illness between different population groups and for monitoring the impact of policies and interventions aimed at reducing health inequities and intergenerational disadvantage over time. While face-to-face surveys are considered the gold standard of interviewing techniques, computer-assisted telephone interviewing is often preferred for cost and convenience. This study compared recall of parents' highest level of education in telephone and face-to-face surveys. Methods. Questions about father's and mother's highest education level were included in two representative population health surveys of South Australians aged 18 years and over in Spring 2004. A random sample selected from the electronic white pages (EWP) responded to a computer-assisted telephone interview (n = 2999), and a multistage clustered area sample responded to a face-to-face interview (n = 2893). A subsample of respondents in the face-to-face sample who owned a telephone that was listed in the EWP (n = 2206) was also compared to the telephone interview sample. Results. The proportion of respondents who provided information about their father's and mother's highest education level was significantly higher in the face-to-face interview (86.3% and 87.8%, respectively) than in the telephone interview (80.4% and 79.9%, respectively). Recall was also significantly higher in the subsample of respondents in the face-to-face interview who had a telephone that was listed in the EWP. Those with missing data for parents' education were more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged regardless of the survey mode. Conclusion. While face-to-face interviewing obtained higher item response rates for questions about parents' education, survey mode did not appear to influence the factors associated with having missing data on father's or mother's highest education level.

Article number54
JournalBMC medical research methodology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Informatics

Cite this