Quality & Quantity

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 817–838 | Cite as

Improving retrospective life course data by combining modularized self-reports and event history calendars: experiences from a large scale survey

  • Katrin DraschEmail author
  • Britta Matthes


Event history calendars (EHC) have proven to be a powerful tool for collecting retrospective autobiographical life course data. One problem is that they are only standardized to a limited extent. This restricts their applicability in large-scale surveys. However, in such surveys, a modularized retrospective CATI design can be combined with an EHC. This data revision module is directly integrated into the interview and used as a data revision module, allowing insights from cognitive psychology to be applied. The data revision module stimulates the respondent’s memory retrieval by detecting both temporal inconsistencies, such as gaps, and overlapping or parallel events. This approach was implemented in the IAB-ALWA study (Working and Learning in a Changing World), a large-scale representative telephone survey involving 10,000 respondents. By comparing the uncorrected data with the final data after revision, we can investigate to what extent the application of this data revision module improves data quality or, more precisely, time consistency and dating accuracy of individual reports.


Event history calendars Large-scale survey Retrospective life course reports Survey methodology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the German Federal Employment Agency (BA)NurembergGermany

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