Methodological considerations in using complex survey data: An applied example with the head start family and child experiences survey

Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn, Christine M. McWayne, Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer, Xiaoli Wen, Ann Marie Faria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Complex survey data are collected by means other than simple random samples. This creates two analytical issues: nonindependence and unequal selection probability. Failing to address these issues results in underestimated standard errors and biased parameter estimates. Using data from the nationally representative Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES; 1997 and 2000 cohorts), three diverse multilevel models are presented that illustrate differences in results depending on addressing or ignoring the complex sampling issues. Limitations of using complex survey data are reported, along with recommendations for reporting complex sample results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-303
Number of pages35
JournalEvaluation Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011



  • complex samples
  • multilevel modeling
  • sampling weights
  • survey research
  • survey weights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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