An Evaluation of Matrix Sampling Methods Using Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Researchers and policy makers often use data from nationally representative probability sample surveys. The number of topics covered by such surveys, and hence the amount of interviewing time involved, have typically increased over the years, resulting in increased costs and respondent burden. A potential solution to this problem is to carefully form subsets of the items in a survey and administer one such subset to each respondent. Designs of this type are called “splitquestionnaire” designs or “matrix sampling” designs. The administration of only a subset of the survey items to each respondent in a matrix sampling design creates what can be considered missing data. Multiple imputation (Rubin 1987), a generalpurpose approach developed for handling data with missing values, is appealing for the analysis of data from a matrix sample, because once the multiple imputations are created, data analysts can apply standard methods for analyzing complete data from a sample survey. This paper develops and evaluates a method for creating matrix sampling forms, each form containing a subset of items to be administered to randomly selected respondents. The method can be applied in complexsettings, including situations in which skip patterns are present. Forms are created in such a way that each form includes items that are predictive of the excluded items, so that subsequent analyses based on multiple imputation can recover some of the information about the excluded items that would have been collected had there been no matrix sampling. The matrix sampling and multipleimputation methods are evaluated using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one of many nationally representative probability sample surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study demonstrates the feasibility of the approach applied to a major national health survey with complex structure, and it provides practical advice about appropriate items to include in matrix sampling designs in future surveys.