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An unfolding question refers to a type of question sequence that yields more complete and accurate data than would a single question on the same topic. Unfolding questions are used by survey researchers in an attempt to reduce item nonresponse (i.e. missing data) and measurement error.

For example, asking someone into which of the following income categories her 2007 total household income fell—less than $20,000; $20,000-$39,999; $40,000-$59,999; $60,000-$79,999; $80,000-$99,999; $100,000 or more—will lead to a good deal of “Don't Know” or “Refused” answers. Researchers have found that an unfolding question about income will substantially reduce item nonresponse and thus the need to impute those missing values.

An unfolding income question sequence for the income variable referenced in the preceding paragraph, that was programmed to be asked ...

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