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The Effects of Phone-Based Surveys on Measurement Quality: When and Why Does Modality Matter?

Last registered on September 19, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

The Effects of Phone-Based Surveys on Measurement Quality: When and Why Does Modality Matter?
Initial registration date
September 19, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
September 19, 2022, 3:08 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Rochester

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Rochester
PI Affiliation
Center for Global Development
PI Affiliation
University of Rochester

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
Mobile phone-based surveys are an increasingly popular tool allowing researchers to collect data more frequently and cheaply than traditional, face-to-face surveys. However, phone surveys can potentially introduce measurement error by exacerbating respondent attrition or reporting error. We conduct a field experiment on a set of 900 micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda in which we randomly assign participants to face-to-face or to phone surveys. Data we collected prior to this experiment will allow us to characterize any attrition bias introduced by a differential tracking rate. We will assess how measurement varies for 1) simple, objective questions, such as age and experience, 2) complex, objective questions, such as business profit and labor supply, 3) subjective, sensitive questions, such as social and political attitudes on controversial topics, and 4) subjective, non-sensitive questions, such as subjective well-being. We will test whether modality effects can be mitigated by fixing enumerator-respondent pairings across survey rounds, or by including a trust-building activity prior to the survey.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Baseler , Travis et al. 2022. "The Effects of Phone-Based Surveys on Measurement Quality: When and Why Does Modality Matter? ." AEA RCT Registry. September 19.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We are primarily interested in assessing measurement differences in profit, revenue, expenses, and social and political attitudes.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will randomize the modality of a survey conducted with 900 Ugandan micro-entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs were enrolled in a separate study on social and political views about refugees, giving us rich panel information on their business characteristics and social and political attitudes. In addition to the modality, we will cross-cut two mitigation strategies which can easily be implemented by other researchers. We will randomize whether the survey is conducted by the same enumerator who conducted the previous survey.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done by computer.
Randomization Unit
We are randomizing individuals to be assigned to either a phone or in-person survey.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
900 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
900 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
450 control individuals and 450 treatment individuals
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Harvard University-Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials