Providing incentives, such as cash, to potential survey respondents is an effective way to increase response rates and thereby possibly reduce the potential for non-response bias. Incentives work best when combined with a multiple contact recruitment approach, but incentives demonstrate their effectiveness in improving response rate even at the time of first contact. For interviewer-mediated surveys, the judicious use of incentives can reduce the number of contacts required to complete an interview. Because incentives increase early responses, incentives have demonstrated their time-efficiency and cost-effectiveness by reducing the labor and postage costs of additional contacts.
Several theories are used to explain why incentives work. The most common explanations rely on social [Page 329]exchange theory, but other theories include economic exchange, cognitive dissonance, and leverage-saliency theory.
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