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Providing incentives, such as cash, to potential survey respondents is an effective way to increase response rates and thereby possibly reduce the potential for non-response bias. Incentives work best when combined with a multiple contact recruitment approach, but incentives demonstrate their effectiveness in improving response rate even at the time of first contact. For interviewer-mediated surveys, the judicious use of incentives can reduce the number of contacts required to complete an interview. Because incentives increase early responses, incentives have demonstrated their time-efficiency and cost-effectiveness by reducing the labor and postage costs of additional contacts.

Theories of Incentives

Several theories are used to explain why incentives work. The most common explanations rely on social exchange theory, but other theories include economic exchange, cognitive dissonance, and leverage-saliency theory.

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