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Can J Public Health. 2010 May-Jun;101(3):213-9.

A systematic literature review on response rates across racial and ethnic populations.

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  • 1The Centre for Health and Policy Studies, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.



To conduct a systematic review examining whether minority ethnic populations participate in surveys as actively as the majority ethnic population.


A literature and grey literature search was conducted using five online databases as well as government databases and reports, including the search terms: survey response rates or non-response rates and racial or ethnic populations (White, African American, Asian, and Hispanic); survey modes or methods (mail, telephone, face to face, e-mail); and response bias (non-response bias, response bias or social desirability). The search was limited to English language and articles published from January 1990 to June 2009. Article exclusions were based on further inclusion and exclusion criteria.


Thirty-five articles were identified on ethnicities and response rates to survey modes. Six articles compared survey mode and response rate for multiple ethnic populations. Response rates ranged from 22.0% to 68.8% in Whites, and in other ethnic groups ranged from 15.4% in African Americans to 70.9% in Latino Americans. Among the 29 articles that presented survey mode and response rate for a specific ethnicity, the highest response rate reported was from African Americans (92.5%) and the lowest was from Cambodian Americans (30.3%).


Response rate varied across studies but was similar across ethnicities. Response rate may be related to many factors, including survey mode, length of questionnaire, survey language and cultural sensitivity to content. Our review indicates that ethnic populations who participate in surveys are as likely to participate in research as Whites. In literature, data validity across ethnicity is still unknown and should be studied in the future.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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