Effectiveness of WhatsApp for Measuring Migration in Follow-Up Phone Surveys. Lessons from a Mode Experiment in Two Low-Income Countries during COVID Contact Restrictions


Phone surveys have increasingly become important data collection tools in developing countries, particularly in the context of sudden contact restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, there is limited evidence regarding the potential of the messenger service WhatsApp for remote data collection despite its large global coverage and expanding membership. WhatsApp may offer advantages in terms of reducing panel attrition and cutting survey costs. WhatsApp may offer additional benefits to migration scholars interested in cross-border migration behavior which is notoriously difficult to measure using conventional face-to-face surveys. In this field experiment, we compared the response rates between WhatsApp and interactive voice response (IVR) modes using a sample of 8446 contacts in Senegal and Guinea. At 12%, WhatsApp survey response rates were nearly eight percentage points lower than IVR survey response rates. However, WhatsApp offers higher survey completion rates, substantially lower costs and does not introduce more sample selection bias compared to IVR. We discuss the potential of WhatsApp surveys in low-income contexts and provide practical recommendations for field implementation.

In Social Science Computer Review
Jasper Dag Tjaden
Jasper Dag Tjaden
Professor for Applied Social Research and Public Policy

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