The Effects of a Between-Wave Incentive Experiment on Contact Update and Production Outcomes in a Panel Study

Since 1969, families participating in the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) have been sent a mailing asking them to update or verify their contact information in order to keep track of their whereabouts between waves. Having updated contact information prior to data collection is associated with fewer call attempts, less tracking, and lower attrition. Based on these advantages, two experiments were designed to increase response rates to the between-wave contact mailing. The first experiment implemented a new protocol that increased the overall response rate by 7–10 percentage points compared to the protocol in place for decades on the PSID. This article provides results from the second experiment which examines the basic utility of the between-wave mailing, investigates how incentives affect article cooperation to the update request and field effort, and attempts to identify an optimal incentive amount. Recommendations for the use of contact update strategies in panel studies are made.