Item Sum: A New Technique for Asking Quantitative Sensitive Questions

Mark Trappmann
3. Mai 2016 bei GESIS in Mannheim (Konferenzraum B2,1) 13:45 Uhr 

Abstract This article contributes to an ongoing debate about how to measure sensitive topics in population surveys. We propose a novel technique that can be applied to the measurement of quantitative sensitive variables: the item sum technique (IST). This method is closely related to the item count technique, which was developed for the measurement of dichotomous sensitive items. First, we provide a description of our new technique and discuss how data collected by the IST can be analyzed. Second, we present the results of a CATI survey on undeclared work in Germany, in which the IST has been applied. Using an experimental design, we compare the IST to direct questioning. Our empirical results indicate that the IST is a promising data-collection technique for sensitive questions. We conclude by discussing the limitations of the new technique and outlining possible improvements for future studies.

In 1998, Mark Trappmann completed his first state teacher training examination (1. Staatsexamen für das Lehramt) in social sciences and mathematics after studying at the Gerhard-Mercator University in Duisburg and the Rijks University in Groningen. From 1998 to 2004 he was a researcher in the Empirical Social Research unit of the University of Essen where he was awarded his doctorate (Dr. Phil.) in 2003. He spent the years 2004 to 2006 as a researcher at the Department of Politics and Management at the University of Konstanz. Mark Trappmann has been in charge of the Panel Study "The Labour Market and Social Security" (PASS) at IAB since May 2006. Since April 2012 he also is a professor for Sociology, especially Survey Methodology at Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg.