Using probability vs. nonprobability sampling to identify hard-to-access participants for health-related research: costs and contrasts

J Aging Health. 2006 Aug;18(4):565-83. doi: 10.1177/0898264306291420.


This article compares the recruitment costs and participant characteristics associated with the use of probability and nonprobability sampling strategies in a longitudinal study of older hemodialysis patients and their spouses. Contrasts were made of people who accrued to the study based on probability and nonprobability sampling strategies. Probability-based sampling was more time-efficient and cost-effective than nonprobability sampling. There were no significant differences between the respondents identified through probability and nonprobability sampling on age, gender, years married, education, work status, and professional job status. Respondents from the probability sample were more likely to be Protestant and less likely to be Catholic than those from the nonprobability sample. Respondents from the probability sample were more likely to be Black, whereas those from the nonprobability sample were more likely to be White. There are strengths and shortcomings associated with both nonprobability and probability sampling. Researchers need to consider representativeness and external validity issues when designing sampling and related recruitment plans for health-related research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Costs and Cost Analysis*
  • Demography
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • Probability*
  • Sampling Studies*
  • United States