Research / BFI Working PaperJan 02, 2023

What Drives (Gaps in) Scientific Study Participation? Evidence from a COVID-19 Antibody Survey

Deniz Dutz, Michael Greenstone, Ali Hortaçsu, Santiago Lacouture, Magne Mogstad, Azeem Shaikh, Alexander Torgovitsky, Winnie van Dijk

Underrepresentation of minority and poor households in scientific studies undermines policy decisions and public health. We study data from a serological study that randomized participation incentives. Participation is low (6% at $0, 17% at $100, 29% at $500) and unequal: minority and poor households are underrepresented at low incentive levels. We develop a framework for disentangling non-contact and “participation hesitancy” in explaining non-participation. We find that underrepresentation occurs because poor and minority households are more hesitant, not because they are harder to contact. The $500 incentive appears to overcome differences in hesitancy and restore representativeness along observable dimensions.

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