Skip sequencing: A decision problem in questionnaire design

Charles F. Manski, Francesca Molinari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper studies questionnaire design as a formal decision problem, focusing on one element of the design process: skip sequencing. We propose that a survey planner use an explicit loss function to quantify the trade-off between cost and informativeness of the survey and aim to make a design choice that minimizes loss. We pose a choice between three options: ask all respondents about an item of interest, use skip sequencing, thereby asking the item only of respondents who give a certain answer to an opening question, or do not ask the item at all. The first option is most informative but also most costly. The use of skip sequencing reduces respondent burden and the cost of interviewing, but may spread data quality problems across survey items, thereby reducing informativeness. The last option has no cost but is completely uninformative about the item of interest. We show how the planner may choose among these three options in the presence of two inferential problems, item nonresponse and response error.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-285
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of Applied Statistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Item nonresponse
  • Partial identification
  • Questionnaire design
  • Response error
  • Skip sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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