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Müller, Bettina and Castiglioni, Laura (2020): Do Temporary Dropouts Improve the Composition of Panel Data? An Analysis of "Gap Interviews" in the German Family Panel pairfam. In: Sociological Methods & Research, Vol. 49, No. 1: pp. 193-215

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In the context of cross-sectional surveys, the scope of research on the impact of response enhancing strategies on sample composition and nonresponse bias is vast. This topic has rarely been addressed for panel studies, however, although these are becoming an increasingly important data source in social research. In this article, we evaluate the impact of reissuing wave nonrespondents on sample composition and survey estimates in the German Family Panel pairfam. In light of concerns about an adequate representation of life changes in panel studies, we focus on whether temporary dropouts improve sample composition in this respect: Using retrospective information from these cases provided at reentry, we approximate the impact of "lost" reports of life changes due to attrition. Our analysis reveals that the inclusion of temporary dropouts does increase sample variability regarding life changes. However, example analyses indicate that substantive conclusions would not be compromised if temporary dropouts were excluded.

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