Quality & Quantity

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 1287–1314 | Cite as

National minorities and their representation in social surveys: which practices make a difference?

  • Francesco LaganàEmail author
  • Guy Elcheroth
  • Sandra Penic
  • Brian Kleiner
  • Nicole Fasel


This paper presents a systematic study of survey mechanisms that produce or reduce minority bias in social surveys. It extends the work of Lipps et al. (2011) who have demonstrated that, in the Swiss context, the more an ethno-national minority community differs, socio-culturally and socio-economically, from the national majority, the less it is likely to be represented in its proper proportion in the major national surveys. Minority bias furthermore has a vertical dimension: socio-economic bias against individuals from the most deprived backgrounds becomes extreme within ethno-national minority communities. Using data from the Swiss Labour Force Survey, the Swiss Household Panel, and the Swiss sample of the European Social Survey, in the present work we empirically assess the impact of three types of survey practices on minority bias: (1) strategies to increase overall response rates of the whole population indiscriminately from its minority status, (2) the use of pre- and post-stratification measures that take into account the overall share of foreigners in the national population, and (3) the conduct of interviews in a wider range of languages, in order to facilitate survey response among certain (linguistic) minorities. Our findings show that efforts to increase overall response rates can, paradoxically, create even more minority bias. On the other hand, they suggest that a combination of stratified sampling and a wider range of survey languages can have a positive effect in reducing survey bias, both between and within national categories. We conclude that measures that take into account and adapt to the social and cultural heterogeneity of surveyed populations do make a difference, whereas additional efforts that only replicate existing routine practices can be counter-productive.


Survey Methodology Sampling bias Ethno-national minorities Response rates Survey languages Stratified sampling 



Swiss Labour Force Survey


Swiss Household Panel


European Social Survey


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Laganà
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Guy Elcheroth
    • 1
  • Sandra Penic
    • 1
  • Brian Kleiner
    • 2
  • Nicole Fasel
    • 3
  1. 1.Life Course and Inequalities Research Center (LINES), Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.FORS – Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social SciencesLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Social PsychologyUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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