April 2024

Does it Pay to Send Multiple Pre-Paid Incentives? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Andrew C. Chang, Joanne W. Hsu, Eva Ma, Kate Bachtell, and Micah Sjoblom


To encourage survey participation and improve sample representativeness, the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) offers an unconditional pre-paid monetary incentive and separate post-paid incentive upon survey completion. We conducted a pre-registered between-subject randomized control experiment within the 2022 SCF, with at least 1,200 households per experimental group, to examine whether changing the pre-paid incentive structure affects survey outcomes. We assess the effects of: (1) altering the total dollar value of the pre-paid incentive (“incentive effect”), (2) giving two identical pre-paid incentives holding the total dollar value fixed (“reminder effect”), and (3) offering multiple pre-paid incentives of different amounts holding the total dollar value fixed (“slope effect”) on survey response rates, interviewer burden, and data quality. Our evidence indicates that a single $15 pre-paid incentive increases response rates and maintains similar levels of interviewer burden and data quality, relative to a single $5 pre-paid incentive. Splitting the $15 into two pre-paid incentives of different amounts increases interviewer burden though lengthening time in the field without improving response rates, reducing the number of contact attempts needed for a response, or improving data quality, regardless of whether the first pre-paid is larger or smaller than the second.

Keywords: Pre-paid incentives, unconditional incentives, sequential incentives, response rates, surveys, data quality, household finance

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2024.023

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: April 19, 2024