Survey Methodology
Dealing with small sample sizes, rotation group bias and discontinuities in a rotating panel design

by Jan A. van den Brakel and Sabine KriegNote 1

  • Release date: December 17, 2015


Rotating panels are widely applied by national statistical institutes, for example, to produce official statistics about the labour force. Estimation procedures are generally based on traditional design-based procedures known from classical sampling theory. A major drawback of this class of estimators is that small sample sizes result in large standard errors and that they are not robust for measurement bias. Two examples showing the effects of measurement bias are rotation group bias in rotating panels, and systematic differences in the outcome of a survey due to a major redesign of the underlying process. In this paper we apply a multivariate structural time series model to the Dutch Labour Force Survey to produce model-based figures about the monthly labour force. The model reduces the standard errors of the estimates by taking advantage of sample information collected in previous periods, accounts for rotation group bias and autocorrelation induced by the rotating panel, and models discontinuities due to a survey redesign. Additionally, we discuss the use of correlated auxiliary series in the model to further improve the accuracy of the model estimates. The method is applied by Statistics Netherlands to produce accurate official monthly statistics about the labour force that are consistent over time, despite a redesign of the survey process.

Key Words: Common factor models; Kalman filter; Measurement bias; Small area estimation; Structural time series modelling; Survey sampling.

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