Social Indicators Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2–3, pp 229–244 | Cite as

Systematic error in behavioural measurement: Comparing results from interview and time budget studies

  • Iiris Niemi


Data collected by survey methodology are sensitive to measurement errors. Factors of memory, understanding, and willingness to respond truthfully, distort the quality of results. In this paper, time diaries were used as a quality check for results obtained by direct interviews and questionnaires. Data is based on surveys carried out by Statistics Finland. Comparison showed that measurement error varied considerably between population groups, influencing dependencies and interpretations of the results. Activities clearly distinctive from other activities, such as gainful employment outside the home, produced the most accurate data in direct survey questions. Everyday activities that don't clearly stand out from other uses of time, such as home based employment, are difficult to recall and produce a lot of biasing measurement errors.


Measurement Error Systematic Error Population Group Survey Question Behavioural Measurement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bateson N: 1984, ‘Data construction in social surveys’, Contemporary Social Research Series: 10 (Allen & Unwin, London).Google Scholar
  2. Belson W. A.: 1981, The Design and Understanding of Survey Questions (Gower, Hants).Google Scholar
  3. Bradburn N. M. and S. Sudman: 1980, Improving Interview Method and Questionnaire Design (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco).Google Scholar
  4. Eskola K.: 1979, Suomalaiset kirjanlukijoina, Diss. (the University of Helsinki, Helsinki).Google Scholar
  5. Finnish Mass Media: 1989, Central Statistical Office of Finland. Culture and Media 1990: 2 (Helsinki).Google Scholar
  6. Galtung J.: 1970, Theory and Method of Social Research (Universitets forlaget, Oslo).Google Scholar
  7. Hietala M.: 1982, ‘Tilastoihin liittyvistä käsitteistä’, in M. Hietala and K. Myllys (eds.) Tutkijan tilastolliset tiedonlähteet (Gaudeamus, Helsinki), pp. 7–11.Google Scholar
  8. Niemi I.: 1983, ‘Systematic bias in hours worked?’, Statistical Review 4, 326–330.Google Scholar
  9. Niemi I.: 1985, ‘Harrastusmittareiden luotettavuus,’ Tilastokeskus. Tutkimuksia 117. Tilastokeskus (Helsinki).Google Scholar
  10. Phillips D.: 1971, Knowledge from what? Theories and Methods in Social Research (Rand McNally, Chicago).Google Scholar
  11. Phillips D.: 1973, ‘Abandoning method’, Sociological Studies in Methodology (Jossey-Bass Publishers, London).Google Scholar
  12. Robinson J. P.: 1985, ‘The validity and reliability of diaries versus alternative time use measures’, in F. T. Juster and F. P. Stafford (eds.) Time, Goods, and Well-Being (The University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor), pp. 33–62.Google Scholar
  13. Sudman S.: 1980, ‘Reducing response error in surveys’, The Statistician, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D. (London), 29, 237–273.Google Scholar
  14. Sudman S. and N. M. Bradburn: 1974, Response Effects in Surveys. A Review and Synthesis (Aldine, Chicago).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iiris Niemi
    • 1
  1. 1.Statistics FinlandHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations