ingly, empirical studies have shown that a stochastic view of nonresponse is more appropriate, viewing each decision to be a respondent as subject to uncertainty. In this view, high correlation between the likelihood of participating and the survey measures produces nonresponse bias in such descriptive statistics. Which NCVS estimates might illustrate such links to response propensities is at this point an unknown question. Some NCVS estimates might be biased from the nonreponse and others might not. New studies are appropriate to gauge what value BJS should place on high NCVS response rates, given both the current design and for future alternative designs.

Given the ubiquity of the nonresponse problem across federal surveys, recent U.S. Office of Management and Budget (2006b) guidelines call for analyses of nonresponse bias when either unit or item nonresponse hits certain levels. The NCVS unit response rate is such that this threshold has not been crossed; still, we know of no effort by BJS or the Census Bureau to mount a full nonresponse bias study for the NCVS.


Cognitive Challenges: Telescoping and Forgetting

As noted above, the NCVS emerged from the National Crime Survey only after several years of conceptual development and methodological research. The research was path-breaking in that it helped launch what is sometimes called the cognitive aspects of survey measurement (CASM) movement (aided by a Committee on National Statistics workshop, National Research Council, 1984). Much of the labor of that redesign effort (Biderman et al., 1986) targeted improved reporting among respondents to the NCS. Importing key notions from cognitive processing models, it was noted that autobiographical reports were fraught with weaknesses. Memories were viewed as being formed at an “encoding” step, in which sense-based observations were retained, often in a manner that was heavily dependent on the situation during the experience of the events. Not all encoded memories were easily retrieved upon a desire to do so. The studies found that “forgetting” events that did occur was a challenge to the survey. Consistent with long-standing results from cognitive psychology it was found that events that did not induce emotional reactions (“nonsalient”), those that happened frequently, and those that occurred far back in time tended to be underreported. Thus, “forgetting” was a problem for the NCS.

Research on context-dependent recall suggested that individual words and mentions of types of related events were effective “cues” to memory recall. Much of the research on the screener questions, therefore, was attempting to improve the rate of reporting of incidents as a way to attack

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