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Distribution and Comparison of the Refusal Rate

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      1. Distribution of the refusal rate
      The CHFS calculates the refusal rates in two ways. The first one adopts a more inclusive way to calculate refusal cases, which include households that refuse to cooperate, unoccupied residences and unqualified households. The formula for this refusal rate I is:
      Refusal rate I = (non-cooperative households + unoccupied residences + unqualified households) / (non-cooperative households + unoccupied residences + unqualified households + households interviewed)
      Another way to calculate refusal rate considers only non-cooperative households using the following formula:
      Refusal rate II = non-cooperative households / (non-cooperative households + households interviewed).
      Table 1 shows the refusal rates of overall, urban and rural sample based on above two measures. Neither of the overall refusal rates based on the two measurements is above 20% thanks to the assistance from the People’s Bank of China and the local communities and to our hardworking and diligent interviewers. We find significant difference in refusal rates between the urban and the rural sample. For example, the refusal rate II in the urban sample, which is 16.5%, is as five times high as that of the rural sample, 3.2%, indicating rural residents are more willing to cooperate with our interviewers.
      Table 2 compares the refusal rates across geographic regions. It shows that the refusal rate gets higher when one moves from the west to the east. Given the unequal development of regions in China, this finding suggests that the willingness of people cooperating in the survey is negatively associated with the level of economic development of the region. Since a large proportion of communities selected from the Eastern region are urban communities, the Eastern region has the highest refusal rate. For instance, the refusal rate II for the East region is 15.5%; in comparison, it is 9.7% for the Central region and 4.4% for the West region. Because the sample distribution ratio for the Eastern, Central, and Western region is 32: 27: 21 respectively and the urban population is oversampled, the refusal rates of the Western and Central region are much lower than the national overall. The CHFS put a lot of time and efforts in the communities where residents are less willing to cooperate with our interviewers at the beginning.

      Table 3 further shows the distribution of refusal rates of the 320 selected residential communities. Using the refusal rate II, we achieved zero refusal rate in 191 communities. In other words, all chosen households in the 191 communities cooperated in the survey. 53 of the 191 communities are urban residential communities whereas the rest 138 are rural villages. For majority communities, the refusal rate ranges between 0% and 20%. Only 7 of the urban communities have a refusal rate above 40%. As majority of the rural villages have zero refusal rate, there are only 21 rural villages where the refusal rate is above zero. Moreover, the distribution of refusal rate is quite similar between the Eastern region and the Central region; there is none  community with a refusal rate above 40% in the Western region.

      2. Comparison of refusal rate with other surveys
      It is worth comparing the refusal rate of the CHFS with that of other major surveys. In China, there are several well-known national surveys, including the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), the Chinese Household Income Project (CHIP), the Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), and the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS). Among above surveys, only CHARLS reported the refusal rate II of its pilot study in 2008. Table 1-8 compares the refusal rate of CHARLS with ours. It shows that the CHFS’s overall refusal rate is 3.6% lower than that of CHARLS, 4.2% lower in the urban sample, and 6.9% lower in the rural sample. It may not appropriate to make the direct comparison given that 2008 CHARLS only covers two provinces (Gansu and Zhejiang), while CHFS covers 25 provinces.        
      Considering that the CHFS sample covers many urban communities in the Eastern China and touches upon many sensitive issues such as income, saving, and wealth allocation, the refusal rate of the CHFS is lower than many would expect. This outcome cannot be achieved without the detailed preparation and meticulous organizational efforts, and most of all, our first-rate and dedicated interviewers and fieldwork managers.

      It is also worthwhile to put the refusal rate of the CHFS in an international perspective. Table 5 presents the refusal rates of four well-respected survey project, including the Panel Study of Income Dynamic (PSID, USA), the Survey of Consumer Finance (SCF, USA), the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES, USA), and the Survey of Household Income and Wealth (the SHIW, Italy). As the benchmark for all longitudinal survey projects, the PSID has achieved an outstanding record in refusal rate, ranging between 2% and 6% in recent waves. The other three surveys in general and the SCF in particular are more comparable to CHFS given their common interests in household assets, income and expenditure. As shown in Table 5, the refusal rates of SCF, CEX and SHIW are all above 25% and that of SCF is above 30%. This international comparison further shows the high quality of the CHFS data with regard to the refusal rate.

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