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Selection of an Area Master Sample for Special Social Surveys
A master sample of fine areas is being selected to provide the dwellings for many of the Special Social Surveys (SSSs) to be conducted over the next five years. Each SSS typically involves a detailed questionnaire on a specific topic such as health, income and expenditure or crime, and the standard mode of enumeration is face-to-face personal interview. A separate master sample of fine areas will provide dwellings for the Monthly Population Survey (MPS), which has the monthly Labour Force Survey as its core component.
With the exception of regions with low dwelling density, the selection of areas for the SSS master sample is not being explicitly tied to the new sample of areas providing dwellings for the MPS. Decoupling the MPS and SSS areas is a major shift from the past, as previously the sample areas for the MPS and SSSs were contained within a single master sample of Census collector districts. The key enabler for the decoupling has been the introduction of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard, which has allowed the creation of a frame of fine area sampling units with well-defined boundaries. In remote regions of Australia and in small towns the SSS master sample areas have been paired with selections in the MPS master sample. This ensures the SSS selections in these areas can be enumerated by interviewers located close to the MPS sample areas.
The selection of an exclusive area master sample for SSSs provides greater flexibility in options for the sample designs of individual SSSs. In particular, the SSS master sample will better support surveys in which sampling efficiency can be improved by targeting particular fine areas based on the characteristics of the dwellings within the areas. For example, the master sample could support a sample design in which areas with high prevalence of low income dwellings (as measured in the 2011 Census) are twice as likely to be selected. The SSS master sample can support such a sample design because the Census characteristics of fine areas are known and the number of fine areas available for selection will be significantly larger than previously the case (when the number of areas available for selection for SSSs was tied to the number of areas selected for the MPS).
To complement use of the new master sample, Household Survey Methodology aim to develop a systematic and streamlined approach for choosing the sample design parameters for individual SSSs. The fundamental household survey sample design parameters are the number of fine areas to select from the master sample and the number of dwellings to sample within each area. The envisioned streamlined approach involves choosing these parameters based on the geographic clustering of the key characteristics of interest for the SSS and by using a model for evaluating enumeration costs for samples with different degrees of geographic dispersion.
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