Methodology of Longitudinal Surveys II

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Determinants of consent to administrative records linkage in longitudinal surveys: evidence from Next Steps

Type:Monograph Paper
Jul 26, 15:20
  • George Ploubidis - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education
  • Lisa Calderwood - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education
  • Darina Peycheva - Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education

The value of enhancing survey data through linkage to administrative records is increasingly recognized among survey researchers; and study participants are more often asked for consent to add information about them, held in administrative records, to their survey data.

Participants’ refusal to give permission to administrative records linkage (i.e. non-consent) leads to reduction in the sample size of the data concerned and more importantly to potential bias due to differential patterns of consent that lead to not completely random patterns of missing data.

Numerous studies have found differences between consenting and non-consenting survey participants on key demographic and socio-economic characteristics, suggesting that age, sex, ethnicity, education, income, are strongly related to the likelihood of consent (Kho et. al, 2009; Sakshaug et. al, 2012). However, the associations found across studies on consent to data linkage are inconsistent (Kho et al., 2009; Bohensky et al., 2010; da Silva et al., 2012; Knies and Burton, 2014; Al Baghal, 2014); and respondent’s behaviour varies depending on the consent domain (Mostafa, 2016), and hence the potential biases may differ according to the consent requested (Jenkins et al., 2006).

Longitudinal surveys have an advantage over cross-sectional surveys as they are able to use the information collected over multiple survey waves to investigate determinants of consent. Much of the literature, however, including those using longitudinal data, examine a relatively limited range of potential predictors, primarily guided by associations found with consent in previous studies. Most studies have examined consent in only one or two domains, and to our knowledge there is no published research in relation to consent to criminal records linkage.  Additionally, different studies in the literature cover different populations and/or age groups, which is likely to contribute to the observed lack of consistency of findings across studies.

This paper contributes to the existing knowledge about administrative records linkage consent and addresses some of these gaps in the literature by exploring determinants of consent in a large-scale longitudinal mixed mode cohort study in the UK, and exploiting the richness of longitudinal data to address bias.

We use data from Next Steps (previously known as Longitudinal Study of Young People in England) to look at determinants of multiple consents, covering health, economics, education and criminal records, sought from the 25 years old study members. We aim to shed further light on what determines consent to these administrative records, and investigate whether there is a difference in the characteristics of the consenters to each record type; as well as, how consistent our findings are with the existing literature on consent patterns.

We employ a data driven, as opposed to a theory driven approach, making use of the rich life course information available for the participants, rather than an arbitrary selection of variables or being guided by the literature on consent bias, to exploit the possibility of unknown predictors of consent from various domains. Capitalizing on the richness of available information in Next Steps, our results will allow researchers to consider a wider range of characteristics as auxiliary variables when handling missing data from differential consent.


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