The Effect of Framing and Placement on Linkage Consent

Numerous surveys link interview data to administrative records, conditional on respondent consent, in order to explore new and innovative research questions. Optimizing the linkage consent rate is a critical step toward realizing the scientific advantages of record linkage and minimizing the risk of linkage consent bias. Linkage consent rates have been shown to be particularly sensitive to certain design features, such as where the consent question is placed in the questionnaire and how the question is framed. However, the interaction of these design features and their relative contributions to the linkage consent rate have never been jointly studied, raising the practical question of which design feature (or combination of features) should be prioritized from a consent rate perspective. We address this knowledge gap by reporting the results of a placement and framing experiment embedded within separate telephone and Web surveys. We find a significant interaction between placement and framing of the linkage consent question on the consent rate. The effect of placement was larger than the effect of framing in both surveys, and the effect of framing was only evident in the Web survey when the consent question was placed at the end of the questionnaire. Both design features had negligible impact on linkage consent bias for a series of administrative variables available for consenters and non-consenters. We conclude this research note with guidance on the optimal administration of the linkage consent question.