Motivated Misreporting in Surveys

Motivated Misreporting refers to strategies used by respondents and inteviewers to make surveys shorter. We have found evidence of this behavior in several countries (US, Germany, the Netherlands) and several modes (web, phone, in-person).

I currently have a fellowship at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to explore motivated misreporting in the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

We’ve looked at several different types of questions where motivated misreporting occurs.

  • Filter Questions: when answering Yes to a question triggers follow ups, we call that first question a filter question. Asking such questions in a way that makes the structure obvious leads to underreporting. However, the effect does not always occur.

  • Looping Questions: similar to filter questions, but ask about related events such as jobs or vacations. Again, making the looping structure obvious leads to underreporting by respondents.

  • Screener Questions: respondents tend to make themselves ineligible for surveys, if given the chance. We recommend asking indirectly about eligibility to avoid the problem.

Stephanie Eckman

I specialize in understanding data quality and the social construction of data.



Do respondents underreport purchases in later waves to avoid follow up questions? CE respondents take part in four waves of the …