Incentives in surveys

Oliver Lipps, Jessica M.E. Herzing, Nicolas Pekari, Michèle Ernst Stähli, Alexandre Pollien, Gisana Riedo, Maud Reveilhac

FORS Guide Nº 08



How to cite :

Lipps, O., Herzing, J. M. E., Pekari, N., Ernst Stähli, M. Pollien, A., Riedo, G., Reveilhac, M. (2019). Incentives in surveys. FORS Guide No. 08, Version 1.0. Lausanne: Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS. doi:10.24449/FG-2019-00008

Keywords :

survey design, unit nonresponse, response rates, sample composition, attrition

Abstract :

This FORS guide discusses the effect of incentives on survey completion/response rate, sample composition, and response quality. The guide particularly emphasizes the effects of different types of incentives – conditional vs. unconditional, monetary vs. non-monetary – for encouraging survey participation and reducing panel survey attrition in the Swiss context.

Recommendations for researchers:
  • When deciding for or against incentives, consider previous research, which suggests that incentives increase data quality in general population surveys in most survey modes.
  • Different types of incentives are differently effective. In general, prepaid monetary incentives are recommended, but even small incentives can increase response rates.
  • Think about delivery methods. Incentives should be easy to deliver and redeem for people.
  • Think about your budget. Estimate a conservative and a liberal response rate (e.g., from surveys with similar characteristics). Then approximate potential expenses for incentives in your survey so that you do not inadvertently exceed your budget.
  • Think about the appropriateness of the incentive for your target population. Do not offer incentives that are relatively valueless for your target population.
  • Take different survey modes and survey designs into account to define the value of your incentives. For example, in large-scale face-to-face surveys, an unconditional monetary incentive of 10 CHF is currently considered an adequate incentive value in Switzerland.

© the authors 2019. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) Creative Commons License