Variation within Households in Consent to Link Survey Data to Administrative Records Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study

CLS Working paper 2014/8.

This study expands our knowledge of consent in linking survey and administrative data by studying respondents’ behaviour when consenting to link their own records and when consenting to link those of their children. It develops and tests a number of hypothesised mechanisms of consent, some of which were not explored in the past. The hypotheses cover: parental pride, privacy concerns, loyalty to the survey, pre-existing relations with the agency holding the data, and interviewer effects. The study uses data from the longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study to analyse the correlates of consent in multiple domains (i.e. linkage of education, health and economic records). It relies on a multivariate probit approach to model the different consent outcomes, and uses fixed and random effects specifications to estimate the effects of interviewers.The findings show that respondent’s behaviour vary depending on the consent domain (i.e. education, health, and economic records) and on the person for whom consent is sought (i.e. main respondent vs. cohort member). In particular, the cohort member’s cognitive skills and the main respondent’s privacy concerns have differential effects on consent. On the other hand, loyalty to the survey proxied by the longitudinal response history has a significant and strong impact on consent irrespective of the outcome. The findings also show that interviewers account for a large proportion of variations in consent even after controlling for the characteristics of the interviewer’s assignment area. In total, it is possible to conclude that the significant impact of some of the correlates will lead to sample bias which needs to be accounted for when working with linked survey and administrative data.

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