AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 18, Issue 12, pp 2366–2373

Spatial Recruitment Bias in Respondent-Driven Sampling: Implications for HIV Prevalence Estimation in Urban Heterosexuals


    • Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of Washington
  • Alan Neaigus
    • New York City Department of HealthHIV Epidemiology Program
  • Travis Wendel
    • Department of AnthropologyJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Camila Gelpi-Acosta
    • Department of SociologyThe New School
  • Holly Hagan
    • College of NursingNew York University
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10461-013-0640-8

Cite this article as:
Jenness, S.M., Neaigus, A., Wendel, T. et al. AIDS Behav (2014) 18: 2366. doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0640-8


Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is a study design used to investigate populations for which a probabilistic sampling frame cannot be efficiently generated. Biases in parameter estimates may result from systematic non-random recruitment within social networks by geography. We investigate the spatial distribution of RDS recruits relative to an inferred social network among heterosexual adults in New York City in 2010. Mean distances between recruitment dyads are compared to those of network dyads to quantify bias. Spatial regression models are then used to assess the impact of spatial structure on risk and prevalence outcomes. In our primary distance metric, network dyads were an average of 1.34 (95 % CI 0.82–1.86) miles farther dispersed than recruitment dyads, suggesting spatial bias. However, there was no evidence that demographic associations with HIV risk or prevalence were spatially confounded. Therefore, while the spatial structure of recruitment may be biased in heterogeneous urban settings, the impact of this bias on estimates of outcome measures appears minimal.


Respondent-driven samplingSurvey samplingHIV/AIDSHeterosexual

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013