Social Indicators Research

, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 677–698 | Cite as

Comparative Assessment of Methods for Measuring Consensual Poverty: Sort Card Versus CAPI

  • Grace P. Kelly
  • Michael W. Tomlinson
  • Demi Patsios


Poverty means more than having a low income and includes exclusion from a minimally accepted way of life. It is now common practice in Europe to measure progress against poverty in terms of low income, material deprivation rates and some combination of both. This makes material deprivation indicators, and their selection, highly significant in its own right. The ‘consensual poverty’ approach is to identify deprivation items which a majority of the population agree constitute life’s basic necessities, accepting that these items will need revised over time to reflect social change. Traditionally, this has been carried out in the UK through specialised poverty surveys using a Sort Card (SC) technique. Based on analysis of a 2012 omnibus survey, and discussions with three interviewers, this article examines how perception of necessities is affected by mode of administration—SC and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). More CAPI respondents scored deprivation items necessary. Greatest disparities are in material items where 25 out of 32 items were significantly higher via CAPI. Closer agreement is found in social participation with 3 out of 14 activities significantly different. Consensus is higher on children’s material deprivation. We consider influencing variables which could account for the disparities and believe that the SC method produces a more considered response. However, in light of technological advances, we question how long the SC method will remain socially acceptable. This paper concludes that the CAPI method can be easily modified without compromising the benefits of the SC method in capturing thoughtful responses.


Deprivation Socially perceived necessities Poverty Social exclusion Sort Card CAPI Mode of administration 



The research reported here was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Grant Number RES-060-25-0052

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Applegate, B., & Sanborn, J. (2011). Public opinion on the harshness of local courts: An experimental test of question working effects. Criminal Justice Review, 36(4), 487–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bajekal, M., Harries, T., Breman, R., & Woodfield, K. (2004). Review of disability estimates and definitions. In-house Report No. 128. London: Department of Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  3. Berthoud, R., Blekesaune, M., Hancock, R. (2006). Arepoorpensionersdeprived’? Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 364, Corporate Document Services.Google Scholar
  4. Blake, M., Clery, E., d’Ardenne, J. & Legard, R. (2009). Cognitive testing: British Social Attitudes child poverty questions. Report to Department for Work and Pensions, Norwich: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  5. Bowling, A. (2005). Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality. Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 281–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradbum, N. M. (1983). Response effects. In P. H. Rossi, J. D. Wright, & A. B. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of survey research (pp. 289–328). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cantril, H. (1944). Gauging public opinion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Department for Work and Pensions. (2003). Measuring child poverty consultation: Final conclusions. London: DWP.Google Scholar
  9. Dewar, A. (2005). Improving survey quality in the measurement of social capital. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  10. Dominy, N. & Kempson, E. (2006). Understanding older people’s experiences of poverty and material deprivation. Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 363, Corporate Document Services.Google Scholar
  11. Eurostat. (2010). Income poverty and material deprivation in european countries. Eurostat Working Paper. Brussels: European Commission. ISSN: 1977-0375.Google Scholar
  12. Fahmy, E., Pemberton, S. & Sutton, E. (2012). Cognitive testing of the 2011 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey, PSE study. Working Paper: Methods Series No 17. Poverty and Social Exclusion Study.
  13. Finch, H. & Kemp, P. (2006). Which pensioners don’t spend their income and why? Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 334, Corporate Document Services.Google Scholar
  14. Gordon, D. (2012). Why use relative risks? PSE: Statistical Briefing Note Number 1. Poverty and Social Exclusion Study.
  15. Gordon, D., Adelman, L., Ashworth, K., Bradshaw, J., Levitas, R., Middleton, S., et al. (2000). Poverty and social exclusion in Britain. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  16. Gordon, D., Nandy, S., Patsios, D. (2012). Bias in the Northern Ireland Omnibus June 2012 Sort Card Module? PSE: Statistical Briefing Note No 2, Poverty and Social Exclusion Study.
  17. Hillyard, P., Kelly, G., McLaughlin, E., Patsios, D., & Tomlinson, M. (2003). Bare necessities: Poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Democratic Dialogue.Google Scholar
  18. Hillyard, P. & Patsios, D. (2013). Study of expenditure poverty in Northern Ireland. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
  19. Kelly, G., Tomlinson, M., Daly, M., Hillyard, P., Nandy, S. & Patsios, D. (2012). The necessities of life in Northern Ireland, Poverty and Social Exclusion Study UK. Analysis Working Paper Number 1.Google Scholar
  20. Krosnick, J., & Smith, W. (1994). Attitude strength. In V. S. Ramachandran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  21. Krumpal, I. (2013). Determinants of social desirability bias in sensitive surveys: A literature review. Quality & Quantity, 47(4), 2025–2047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Legard, R., Gray, M. & Blake, M. (2008). Cognitive testing: Older people and the FRS material deprivation questions. Working Paper No 55, London: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  23. Mack, J., & Lansley, S. (1985). Poor Britain. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  24. McAuley, C., Hillyard, P., McLaughlin, E., Tomlinson, M., Kelly, G. & Patsios, D. (2003). The necessities of life in Northern Ireland. Working Paper 1, Poverty and Social Exclusion Northern Ireland Project. Belfast: Queens University Belfast.Google Scholar
  25. McKay, S. (2008). Measuring material deprivation among older people: Methodological study to revise the Family Resources Survey questions. Working Paper No 54, London: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  26. Nicolaas G. & Tipping S. (2004). ‘HSE social capital questions: comparison of interviewer-administered questions and self-administered questions’, Prepared for Socio Inequalities Branch, Office for National Statistics. Referenced in Raham, Z & Dewar, A. (2006) The Impact of Mode on the Comparability of Survey Data. Survey Methodology Bulletin, Special Edition No 58, August 2006, London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  27. Nicolaas, G. & Tipping, S. (2006). Mode effects in social capital surveys. In ONS (2006), Survey Methodology Bulletin (pp 56–74). Special Edition No 58, August 2006. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  28. Office for National Statistics. (2006). Survey Methodology Bulletin. Special Edition No 58, August 2006, London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  29. Pantazis, C., Townsend, P. & Gordon, D. (1999). The necessities of life in Britain. Working Paper No 1, Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey of Britain, Bristol: University of Bristol.Google Scholar
  30. Presser, S., Rothgeb, J., Couper, M., et al. (2004). Methods for testing and evaluating survey questionnaires. New Jersey: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rahman, Z. & Dewar, A. (2006). The impact of mode on the comparability of survey data. In ONS (2006) Survey Method Bulletin (pp. 3–10). Special Edition No 58, August 2006. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  32. Ralph, K., Palmer, K., & Olney, J. (2011). Subjective well-being: A qualitative investigation of subjective well-being questions. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  33. Schuldt, J., Konrath, S., & Schwarz, N. (2011). “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? Whether the planet is warming depends on question wording. Public Opinion Quarterly, 75(1), 115–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schuman, H., & Presser, S. (1996). Questions and answers in attitude surveys: Experiments on question form, wording and context. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  35. Simón, T., Suengas, A., Ruiz-Gallego-Largo, T., & Bandrés, J. (2013). Positive bias is a defining characteristic of aging to the same extent as declining performance. International Journal of Psychology, 48(4), 704–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Singer, E., & Couper, M. (2014). The effect of question wording on attitudes toward prenatal testing and abortion. Public Opinion Quarterly, 78(3), 751–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Smith, T. (1997). The impact of the presence of others on a respondent’s answers to questions. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 9(1), 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smyth, J., Christian, L., & Dillman, D. (2008). Does ‘yes or no’ on the telephone mean the same as ‘check-all-that-apply’ on the web. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(1), 103–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sudman, S., & Bradburn, N. (1974). Response effects in surveys: A review and synthesis. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  40. Tomlinson, M., Hillyard, P., & Kelly, G. (2014). Child poverty in Northern Ireland: Results from the poverty and social exclusion study. In Child Poverty Alliance (ed.) Beneath the Surface: Child Poverty in Northern Ireland (pp. 11–34). Belfast: Child Poverty Alliance.
  41. Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grace P. Kelly
    • 1
  • Michael W. Tomlinson
    • 1
  • Demi Patsios
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social WorkQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.University of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations