Open Access

Trends in Establishment Survey Nonresponse Rates and Nonresponse Bias: Evidence from the 2001-2017 IAB Establishment Panel


Evidence from the household survey literature shows a declining response rate trend in recent decades, but whether a similar trend exists for voluntary establishment surveys is an understudied issue. This article examines trends in nonresponse rates and nonresponse bias over a period of 17 years in the annual cross-sectional refreshment samples of the IAB Establishment Panel in Germany. In addition, rich administrative data about the establishment and employee composition are used to examine changes in nonresponse bias and its two main components, refusal and noncontact, over time. Our findings show that response rates dropped by nearly a third: from 50.2% in 2001 to 34.5% in 2017. Simultaneously, nonresponse bias increased over this period, which was mainly driven by increasing refusal bias whereas noncontact bias fluctuated relatively evenly over the same period. Nonresponse biases for individual establishment and employee characteristics did not show a distinct pattern over time with few exceptions. Notably, larger establishments participated less frequently than smaller establishments over the entire period. This implies that survey organizations may need to put more effort into recruiting larger establishments to counteract nonresponse bias.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Mathematics, Probability and Statistics