Recruitment and Retention of Minority Participants in the Health and Retirement Study

Purpose: Minority oversamples of African Americans and Hispanics have been a key feature of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) design from its origins in 1992. The objective of this article was to assess the quality of the HRS with respect to the recruitment and retention of minority respondents. Design and Methods: To evaluate minority recruitment efforts, we examine baseline response rates for the early baby boom cohort that was added in the 2004 wave and the representativeness of this cohort with regard to demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics. To evaluate retention, we focus on minority differentials in 2008 interview, nonresponse and mortality outcomes for the full HRS sample. We also examine minority differentials in participation in supplemental components of the HRS. Results: Minority response rates at baseline and in longitudinal follow-ups for the main HRS interview have been equal to or better than that of majority Whites. Conversely, response rates to some specific supplemental components have been lower for minority sample members. Implications: The oversample strategies that the HRS has employed have been successful at identifying and recruiting minority participants at response rates very comparable with that of Whites and others. Minority differentials in participation in supplemental components have been overcome to some extent through interviewer training and targeted follow-up strategies. The HRS experience suggests that well-trained interviewers can overcome most if not all of whatever race and ethnic differentials exist in willingness to participate in surveys, including those involving biological data collection.