UP504 • Survey Research

last updated: Saturday, April 12, 2008

link to survey research page

Assignment Four

due Monday, March 17

ANSWER SHEET (posted 4/10/08) return to UP504 main page

Please write concise answers. Good survey research requires clarity, precision and consistency. See the survey research page (including the detailed class notes) for more information, including the course readings on survey research. As in previous assignments, work in teams of two students.


1. Measures: In urban research we often use concepts that are not easily measurable, and yet measures are necessary for quantitative urban research. Define simple measures of the following two concepts. For each, you may either locate and use standard measures (such as government definitions or accepted social science practices -- be sure to cite the source) or else develop your own. IMPORTANT: In either case, be specific and operational. Don't just describe the measure, but concisely explain how it is actually measured/calculated. (In other words, the reader should know what data is needed, what calculations would be performed on the data, what the scale is, and how to interpret the results -- e.g., does a higher number represent more or less segregation?)

a. racial segregation

b. suburban sprawl


2. Sampling Scenario (answer limit: 1 page)
You are a graduate planning student writing a thesis on New Urbanism (a contemporary planning/design movement to build higher density communities that encourage greater walking and mass transit, promote more neighborhood identity, reduce the environmental impacts of urban development, etc.). You want to do a survey of home builders in the U.S. to examine their attitudes about New Urbanism. You are particularly interested in whether potential support for New Urbanist developments among the construction industry varies regionally, by size of builder, and by the housing type they construct. You contact the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which has over 65,000 members nationwide. They have a membership list for sale, which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, size of business, predominant type of housing constructed (e.g., single family, townhouses, etc.) and average sales price of housing units constructed. However, they want to charge you $20,000 for the list. After much negotiation, they agree to give you the names of 200 members for free. (This makes you happy, but you have concerns about the sampling error when making inferences from small subpopulations of your sample.) You can specify what criteria the data base manager at NAHB will use to select the 200 cases from the mailing list data base of over 65,000 names.

Your task: Develop a sampling strategy. How would you select your sample, and why?

Note: for questions 3 and 4, consider not only the specific wording/formatting, but also the broader issues of categories, concepts vs. measures, scale, measurement units, any conflicts between the intent of the question and the way the question was asked, etc.

3. Survey Questionnaires (Mail)
For each of the following mail survey questions, briefly explain what is wrong with the question (if anything), and how it might lead to biased, inaccurate or otherwise poor results. Then suggest your own version of the question: 

a. What is your occupation now, and what was it five years ago? __________________________________

b. How do you travel to work each day?
  ___ car
  ___ bus
  ___ subway
  ___ other

c. Would you be willing to ride mass transportation if it was available in your area? (Circle one number)
very willing
not willing at all


4. Survey Questionnaires (Telephone)
After conducting a telephone survey of 400 people, you get the following results. How could you have changed the question to get more useful results?

QUESTION: If gas prices went up $2.00 per gallon, how much less would you use your car?


[a range of answers were given, including more than one answer; these varied responses were grouped together as the following:]
  about the same 42%
  a bit less 27%
  between 10 and 30 percent less 12%
  less weekend trips 7%
  take public transit more to work 17%
  carpool 6%
  more than 30 percent less 17%
  give up driving 5%
  sell car 3%
  less summer trips 6%
  I would trade in my big car for a small one 9%
  I would look for a job closer to home 4%
  I would look for housing closer to work 2%