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National minorities and their representation in social surveys: which practices make a difference?


  • Francesco Laganà


  • Guy Elcheroth


  • Sandra Penic


  • Brian Kleiner


  • Nicole Fasel



This paper presents a systematic study of survey mechanisms that produce or reduce minority bias in social surveys. It extends the work of Lipps et al. ( 2011 ) who have demonstrated that, in the Swiss context, the more an ethno-national minority community differs, socio-culturally and socio-economically, from the national majority, the less it is likely to be represented in its proper proportion in the major national surveys. Minority bias furthermore has a vertical dimension: socio-economic bias against individuals from the most deprived backgrounds becomes extreme within ethno-national minority communities. Using data from the Swiss Labour Force Survey, the Swiss Household Panel, and the Swiss sample of the European Social Survey, in the present work we empirically assess the impact of three types of survey practices on minority bias: (1) strategies to increase overall response rates of the whole population indiscriminately from its minority status, (2) the use of pre- and post-stratification measures that take into account the overall share of foreigners in the national population, and (3) the conduct of interviews in a wider range of languages, in order to facilitate survey response among certain (linguistic) minorities. Our findings show that efforts to increase overall response rates can, paradoxically, create even more minority bias. On the other hand, they suggest that a combination of stratified sampling and a wider range of survey languages can have a positive effect in reducing survey bias, both between and within national categories. We conclude that measures that take into account and adapt to the social and cultural heterogeneity of surveyed populations do make a difference, whereas additional efforts that only replicate existing routine practices can be counter-productive. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Laganà & Guy Elcheroth & Sandra Penic & Brian Kleiner & Nicole Fasel, 2013. "National minorities and their representation in social surveys: which practices make a difference?," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 1287-1314, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:qualqt:v:47:y:2013:i:3:p:1287-1314
    DOI: 10.1007/s11135-011-9591-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gross, Dominique M., 2006. "Immigration policy and foreign population in Switzerland," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3853, The World Bank.
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