Does sampling using random digit dialling really cost more than sampling from telephone directories: debunking the myths

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2006 Feb 24;6:6. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-6-6.


Background: Computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) is widely used for health surveys. The advantages of CATI over face-to-face interviewing are timeliness and cost reduction to achieve the same sample size and geographical coverage. Two major CATI sampling procedures are used: sampling directly from the electronic white pages (EWP) telephone directory and list assisted random digit dialling (LA-RDD) sampling. EWP sampling covers telephone numbers of households listed in the printed white pages. LA-RDD sampling has a better coverage of households than EWP sampling but is considered to be more expensive due to interviewers dialling more out-of-scope numbers.

Methods: This study compared an EWP sample and a LA-RDD sample from the New South Wales Population Health Survey in 2003 on demographic profiles, health estimates, coefficients of variation in weights, design effects on estimates, and cost effectiveness, on the basis of achieving the same level of precision of estimates.

Results: The LA-RDD sample better represented the population than the EWP sample, with a coefficient of variation of weights of 1.03 for LA-RDD compared with 1.21 for EWP, and average design effects of 2.00 for LA-RDD compared with 2.38 for EWP. Also, a LA-RDD sample can save up to 14.2% in cost compared to an EWP sample to achieve the same precision for health estimates.

Conclusion: A LA-RDD sample better represents the population, which potentially leads to reduced bias in health estimates, and rather than costing more than EWP actually costs less.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Efficiency
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Research Design
  • Sampling Studies*
  • Telephone* / economics