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Selective Response to Questions on Delinquency*

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In the German General Survey 2000 (ALLBUS), the so-called ‘Sealed Envelope Technique’ (SET), was utilized to obtain data on an individuals’ self-admitted delinquency. The focus of this article is to discover, particularly, the reason respondents refused to fill in this confidential questionnaire in spite of the guaranteed anonymity. From a theoretical perspective of subjective expected utility, the assumption is that respondents are interested in maximizing benefits and avoiding social costs in the interview situation. Consequently, responses provided are optimal realizations of the respondents’ interest. Furthermore, the respondents’ intellectual capacity in understanding the questions, the SET applied, the interviewer characteristics, and aspects of the interview situation, were presumably responsible for refusals on sensitive questions. The ALLBUS 2000 data confirm these hypotheses. The selectivity of self-reported delinquency on matters concerning fare avoidance and tax evasion also resulted in biased model estimators of determinants regarding anticipated future delinquency. Mail survey is one supported view on improving data quality in self-admitted acts of delinquency. However, before firm conclusions can be drawn, more empirical data is needed on the processes and mechanisms involved in a respondents refusal to answer questions on delinquency.

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Correspondence to Rolf Becker.

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* An empirical assessment on the effectiveness of the ‘Sealed Envelope Technique’ for self-admitted delinquency through the utilization of the German General Social Survey 2000 data.

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Becker, R. Selective Response to Questions on Delinquency*. Qual Quant 40, 483–498 (2006).

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