Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details

Journal of Official Statistics

The Journal of Statistics Sweden

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2015: 0.467
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.740

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.410
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.810
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.540

Open Access
See all formats and pricing

Locating Longitudinal Respondents After a 50-Year Hiatus

Celeste Stone
  • Corresponding author
  • American Institutes for Research’s Center for Survey Methods, 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007.
  • Email:
/ Leslie Scott
  • American Institutes for Research’s Center for Survey Methods, 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
  • Email:
/ Danielle Battle
  • American Institutes for Research’s Center for Survey Methods, 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
  • Email:
/ Patricia Maher
  • Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-05-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/jos-2014-0019


Many longitudinal and follow-up studies face a common challenge: locating study participants. This study examines the extent to which a geographically dispersed subsample of participants can be relocated after 37 to 51 years of noncontact. Relying mostly on commercially available databases and administrative records, the 2011-12 Project Talent Follow-up Pilot Study (PTPS12) located nearly 85 percent of the original sample members, many of whom had not participated in the study since 1960. This study uses data collected in the base year to examine which subpopulations were the hardest to find after this extended hiatus. The results indicate that females were located at significantly lower rates than males. As expected, sample members with lower cognitive abilities were among the hardest-to-reach subpopulations. We next evaluate the extent to which biases introduced during the tracking phase can be minimized by using the multivariate chi-square automatic interaction detection (CHAID) technique to calculate tracking loss adjustments. Unlike a 1995 study that found that these adjustments reduced statistical biases among its sample of located females, our results suggest that statistical adjustments were not as effective in PTPS12, where many participants had not been contacted in nearly 50 years and the tracking rates varied so greatly across subgroups.

Keywords: Respondent tracking; attrition bias; panel reengagement


  • Andresen, E.M., Renea Machuga, C., van Booven, M.E., Egel, J., Chibnall, J.T., and Tait, R.C. (2008). Effects and Costs of Tracing Strategies on Nonresponse Bias in a Survey of Workers With Low-Back Injury. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72, 40-54. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfm055 [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Anstey, K.J., Luszcz, M.A., Giles, L.C., and Andrews, G.R. (2001). Demographic, Health, Cognitive, and Sensory Variables as Predictors of Mortality in Very Old Adults. Psychology and Aging, 16, 3-11. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.16.1.3 [Crossref]

  • Becker, K., Berry, S., Orr, N., and Perlman, J. (2012). Finding the Hard to Reach and Keeping Them Engaged in Research. Presented at the 2012 International Conference on Methods for Surveying and Enumerating Hard-to-Reach Populations, New Orleans, LA., October 31-November 3.

  • Calderwood, L. (2012). Tracking Sample Members in Longitudinal Studies. Survey Practice, 5(4), 1. Available at: http://www.surveypractice.org/index.php/SurveyPractice/article/view/34 (accessed August 2, 2013).

  • Call, V.R.A., Otto, L.B., and Spenner, K.I. (1982). Tracking Respondents: A Multi- Method Approach. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

  • Clarridge, B.R., Sheehy, L.L., and Hauser, T.S. (1978). Tracing Members of a Panel: A 17-Year Follow-up. Sociological Methodology, 9, 185-203.

  • Cotter, R.B., Burke, J.D., Loeber, R., and Navratil, J.L. (2002). Innovative Retention Methods in Longitudinal Research: A Case Study of the Developmental Trends Study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11, 485-498.

  • Cotter, R.B., Burke, J.D., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., and Loeber, R. (2005). Contacting Participants for Follow-up: How Much Effort Is Required to Retain Participants in Longitudinal Studies? Evaluation and Program Planning, 28, 15-21. DOI: http://www. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2004.10.002 [Crossref]

  • Cottler, L.B., Compton, W.M., Ben-Abdallah, A., Horne, M., and Claverie, D. (1996). Achieving a 96.6 Percent Follow-up Rate in a Longitudinal Study of Drug Users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 41, 209-217. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/ 0376-8716(96)01254-9 [Crossref]

  • Couper, M.P. and Ofstedal, M.B. (2009). Keeping in Contact WithMobileSampleMembers. In Methodology of Longitudinal Surveys, P. Lynn (ed.). New York: Wiley, 183-203.

  • Crowe,M.,Clay,O.J.,Martin,R.C.,Howard,V.J.,Wadley,V.G.,Sawyer, P.,andAllman,R.M. (2013). Indicators of Childhood Quality of Education in Relation to Cognitive Function in Older Adulthood. Journals of Gerontology: Biological and Medical Sciences, 68, 198-204. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1093/gerona/gls122 [Crossref]

  • Flanagan, J.C. and Cooley, W.W. (1966). Project TALENT: One-Year Follow-up Studies. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, School of Education.

  • Gale, C.R., Cooper, R., Craig, L., Elliott, J., Kuh, D., Richards, M., Starr, J.M.,Whalley, L.J., and Deary, I.J. (2012). Cognitive Function in Childhood and Lifetime Cognitive Change in Relation to Mental Well-Being in Four Cohorts of Older People. PLOS ONE, 7, e44860. [PubMed]

  • Haggerty, K.P., Fleming, C.B., Catalano, R.F., Petrie, R.S., Rubin, R.J., and Grassley, M.H. (2008). Ten Years Later: Locating and Interviewing Children of Drug Abusers Evaluation and Program Planning, 31, 1-9. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/ j.evalprogplan.2007.10.003 [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Hampson, S.E., Dubanoski, J.P., Hamada, W., Marsella, A.J., Matsukawa, J., Suarez, E., and Goldberg, L.R. (2001). Where Are They Now? Locating Former Elementary- School Students After Nearly 40 Years for a Longitudinal Study of Personality and Health. Journal of Research in Personality, 35, 375-387. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/ 10.1006/jrpe.2001.2317 [Crossref]

  • Hauser, R.M. (2005). Survey Response in the Long Run: The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Field Methods, 17, 3-29. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1177/X04272452 [Crossref]

  • Iannacchione, V.G. (2003). Sequential Weight Adjustments for Location and Cooperation Propensity for the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. Journal of Official Statistics, 19, 31-45.

  • Jessor, R. and Jessor, S.L. (1977). Problem Behavior and Psychological Development: A Longitudinal Study of Youth. New York: Academic Press.

  • Kass, G.V. (1980). An Exploratory Technique for Investigating Large Quantities of Categorical Data. Applied Statistics, 29, 119-127.

  • Kimmel, L.G. and Miller, J.D. (2008). The Longitudinal Study of American Youth: Notes on the First 20 Years of Tracking and Data Collection. Survey Practice, 19. Available at: http://www.surveypractice.org/index.php/SurveyPractice (accessed August 2013).

  • Masson, H., Balfe, M., Hackett, S., and Phillips, J. (2013). Lost Without a Trace? Social Networking and Social Research With a Hard-to-Reach Population. British Journal of Social Work, 43, 24-40. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr168 [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Meehan, A., Saleska, E.L., Kinsey, N.L., Hinsdale-Shouse, M.A., and Tischner, C. (2009). The Challenges of Locating Young Adults for a Longitudinal Study: Improved Tracing Strategies Implemented for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Wave IV. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Hollywood, FL. Available at: http://www.amstat.org/sections/srms/proceedings/y2009/Files/400056.pdf (accessed August 2013).

  • Mood, C. (2010). Logistic Regression: Why We Cannot Do What We Think We Can Do, and What We Can Do About It. European Sociological Review, 26, 67-82. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcp006 [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Orr, D.B. (1963). A Study of Nonrespondents to the First Project TALENT One-Year Follow-Up Mail Questionnaire. Philadelphia, PA: Presented at the Meetings of the American Psychological Association.

  • Ortiz, V. and Godinez Ballon, E. (2007). Longitudinal Research at the Turn of the Century: Searching for the Mexican American People. Social Methods & Research, 36, 112-137.

  • Passetti, L.L., Godley, S.H., Scott, C.K., and Siekmann, M. (2000). A Low-Cost Follow-up Resource: Using the World Wide Web to Maximize Client Location Efforts. American Journal of Evaluation, 21, 195-203. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1098-2140(00)00072-2 [Crossref]

  • Radler, B.T. and Ryff, C.D. (2010). Who Participates? Accounting for Longitudinal Retention in the MIDUS National Study of Health and Well-Being. Journal of Aging and Health, 22, 307-331. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1177/0898264309358617 [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Ren, P. (2011). Lifetime Mobility in the United States: 2010 (ACSBR/10-07). U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Briefs. Available at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acsbr10-07.pdf (accessed August 2013).

  • Ribisl, K.M., Walton, M.A., Mowbray, C.T., Luke, D.A., Davidson, W.S., and BootsMiller, B.J. (1996). Minimizing Participant Attrition in Panel Studies Through the Use of Effective Retention and Tracking Strategies: Review and Recommendations. Evaluation and Program Planning, 19, 1-25. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/0149-7189(95)00037-2 [Crossref]

  • Ritchie, S.J. and Bates, T.C. (2013). Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status. Psychological Sciences, 24, 1301-1308. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797612466268 [Crossref]

  • Rossi, R.J., Wise, L.L., Williams, K.L., and Carrel, K.S. (1976). Methodology of the Project TALENT 11-Year Follow-Up Study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.

  • Ryff, C., Almeida, D.M., Ayanian, J.S., Carr, D.S., Cleary, P.D., Coe, C., Davidson, R., Krueger, R.F., Lachman, M.E., Marks, N.F., Mroczek, D.K., Seeman, T., Seltzer, M.M., Singer, B.H., Sloan, R.P., Tun, P.A., Weinstein, M., and Williams, D. (2006). National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II), 2004-2006 (ICPSR 4652). Field Report for MIDUS 2 Longitudinal Sample. Available at: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NACDA/studies/04652/version/6 (accessed August 3, 2013).

  • Sandoval, A. and Stone, C. (2013). Tracking and Re-engaging Respondents for Follow-up Research: A Methodological Examination of Two Research Studies. Presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Boston, MA.

  • Stouthamer-Loeber, M. and van Kammen, W.B. (1995). Participant Acquisition and Retention. In Data Collection and Management: A Practical Guide (Applied Social Research Methods, Vol. 39), M. Stouthamer-Loeber and W.B. van Kammen (eds). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 62-80.

  • Strawn, C., Lopez, C., and Setzler, K. (2007, revised). It Can Be Done: Sample Retention Methods Used by the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning. Portland, OR: Portland State University.

  • Wilson,R.S., Hebert,L.E., Scherr, P.A., Barnes,L.L.,Mendes de Leon,C.F., andEvans,D.A. (2009). Educational Attainment and Cognitive Decline in Old Age. Neurology, 72, 460-465. DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1212/01.wnl.0000341782.71418.6c [Crossref]

  • Wine, J., Janson, N., and Wheeless, S. (2011). 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) Full-Scale Methodology Report (NCES 2012-246).

  • Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012246_1.pdf (accessed August 2013).

  • Wise, L.L., McLaughlin, D.H., and Steel, L. (1979). The Project TALENT Data Bank Handbook (Revised). Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.

About the article

Published Online: 2014-05-08

Published in Print: 2014-06-01

Citation Information: Journal of Official Statistics, ISSN (Online) 2001-7367, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/jos-2014-0019. Export Citation

© by Celeste Stone. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in