How to survey displaced workers in Switzerland: Ways of addressing sources of bias

TitleHow to survey displaced workers in Switzerland: Ways of addressing sources of bias
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBaumann, I, Lipps, O, Oesch, D, Vandenplas, C
EditorOris, M, Roberts, C, Joye, D, Ernst Stähli, M
Book TitleSurveying human vulnerabilities across the life course
Series TitleLife Course and Social Policies
Place PublishedNew York
ISBN Number978-3-319-24157-9
Keywordscareer prospects, job loss, nonresponse bias, plant closure, selection bias

Studying career outcomes after job loss is challenging because individually displaced worker form a self-selected group. Indeed, the same factors causing the workers to lose their jobs, such as lack of motivation, may also reduce their re-employment prospects. Using data from plant closures where all workers were displaced irrespective of their individual characteristics offers a way around this selection bias. There is no systematic data collection on workers displaced by plant closure in Switzerland. Accordingly, we conducted our own survey on 1200 manufacturing workers who had lost their job 2 years earlier. The analysis of observational data gives rise to a set of methodological challenges, in particular nonresponse bias. Our survey addressed this issue by mixing data collection modes and repeating contact attempts. In addition, we combined the survey data with data from the public unemployment register to examine the extent of nonresponse bias. Our analysis suggests that some of our adjustments helped to reduce bias. Repeated contact attempts increased the response rate, but did not reduce nonresponse bias. In contrast, using telephone interviews in addition to paper questionnaires helped to substantially improve the participation of typically underrepresented subgroups. However, the survey respondents still differ from nonrespondents in terms of age, education and occupation. Interestingly, these differences have no significant impact on the substantial conclusion about displaced workers’ re-employment prospects.