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Incentive Experiments: NSF Experiences

5. Monetary Incentive: The More the Better?


As mentioned previously, monetary incentives—as little as $5—had positive impacts on response rates and/or data quality. But are larger incentives associated with larger gains in response rates? Although NSF has not tested a wide range of values for incentives in a single experiment, the studies that do exist suggest the higher the monetary incentive, the higher the gain in response rate.

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5.1 The Effect of the Amount of Incentive on Response Rate and Data Quality

Using the results of the existing experiments, table 16Excel table. summarizes the monetary incentive amount and the corresponding response rate increase associated with that incentive. The 2003 NSRCG experiment results are not included because the experiment ended only 1 week after its start. Table 16Excel table. also lists the decrease in imputation rate associated with the monetary incentive in experiments for which such information is available. Imputation rate is the percentage of the items that are imputed; therefore, a decrease in item imputation rate means an increase in data quality.

The data in table 16Excel table., drawn from tables 1–15, suggest that higher monetary incentives may be associated with greater gains in response rate; however, this set of experiments was not designed to test such a proposition. Further exploration of this potential association would be useful.

Incentive Experiments: NSF Experiences
Working Paper | SRS 11-200 | November 2010