The Association of Interviewer Gender on Responses to Sensitive Survey Questions

Sina Kianersi , Indiana University
Maya Luetke, Indiana University, Bloomington
Reginal Jules, Fonkoze Foundation
Florence Jean-Louis, Fonkoze Foundation
Molly S. Rosenberg, Indiana University, Bloomington

Bias may be introduced in survey data collection when participants answer questions differently depending on interviewer gender. This could affect the validity of collected data, especially sensitive data. Using sexual behavior data collected in a 2017-2018 cross-sectional survey of Haitian women (n=304), we evaluated the effect of interviewer-gender on three outcomes: (1) question-specific response rates, (2) total number of non-responses, and (3) differences in reported answers. We observed higher item response rates for sensitive sexual behavior questions when the interviewer was female and more item non-responses (Don’t know/Refuse) when the interviewer was male. Among those who did respond, participants were more likely to report some sensitive sexual behaviors to women and others to men. We conclude that researchers should consider the sociocultural norms of the study population and the potential for interviewer bias in the planning and analysis phase of studies using self-reported data.

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 Presented in Session 3. Population, Development, & the Environment; Data & Methods; Applied Demography