Exploring nonresponse bias in a health survey using neighborhood characteristics

OBJECTIVES: We examined potential nonresponse bias in a large-scale, population-based, random-digit-dialed telephone survey in California and its association with the response rate. METHODS: We used California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data and US Census data and linked the two data sets at the census tract level. We compared a broad range of neighborhood characteristics of respondents and nonrespondents to CHIS. We projected individual-level nonresponse bias using the neighborhood characteristics. RESULTS: We found little to no substantial difference in neighborhood characteristics between respondents and nonrespondents. The response propensity of the CHIS sample was similarly distributed across these characteristics. The projected nonresponse bias appeared very small. CONCLUSIONS: The response rate in CHIS did not result in significant nonresponse bias and did not substantially affect the level of data representativeness, and it is not valid to focus on response rates alone in determining the quality of survey data.