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Am J Epidemiol. 1999 Jun 1;149(11):1057-62.

Increasing response rates for mailed surveys of Medicaid clients and other low-income populations.

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Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN 46285, USA.


Mailing surveys to low-income populations is often avoided because of concern about low response rates. In this study, the authors used a mailed survey of a low-income population to test whether $1.00 or $2.00 cash-response incentives were worth the expense and whether 2-day priority mail ($2.90 postage) would yield a sufficiently higher response rate than certified mail ($1.52 postage) to justify its cost. In 1994, 2,243 randomly selected families in subsidized health care programs in Pierce County, Washington, were randomly sent no incentive, $1.00, or $2.00 in the first of three mailings. For the third mailing, nonrespondents were randomly assigned to receive either certified or 2-day priority mail. After 4 weeks, the response rates were 36.7%, 48.1%, and 50.3% for the no-incentive, $1.00, and $2.00 groups, respectively. After three mailings, the cost per response was the lowest for the group that received $1.00. The response rate for the certified mailing (28.1%) was significantly higher than the rate for the more expensive priority mailing (21.7%). No incentive-related bias was detected. The authors concluded that the most efficient protocol for this low-income population was to use a $1.00 incentive in the first mailing and a certified third mailing.

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