For some surveys, it is important to ensure that there are enough members of a certain subgroup in the population so that more reliable estimates can be reported for that group. To do this, we oversample members of the subgroup by selecting more people from this group than would typically be done if everyone in the sample had an equal chance of being selected. Because the margin of sampling error is related to the size of the sample, increasing the sample size for a particular subgroup through the use of oversampling allows for estimates to be made with a smaller margin of error. A survey that includes an oversample weights the results so that members in the oversampled group are weighted to their actual proportion in the population; this allows for the overall survey results to represent both the national population and the oversampled subgroup.

For example, African Americans make up 13.6% of the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census. A survey with a sample size of 1,000 would only include approximately 136 African Americans. The margin of sampling error for African Americans then would be around 10.5 percentage points, resulting in estimates that could fall within a 21-point range, which is often too imprecise for many detailed analysis surveyors want to perform. In contrast, oversampling African Americans so that there are roughly 500 interviews completed with people in this group reduces the margin of sampling error to about 5.5 percentage points and improves the reliability of estimates that can be made. Unless a listed sample is available or people can be selected from prior surveys, oversampling a particular group usually involves incurring the additional costs associated with screening for eligible respondents.

An alternative to oversampling certain groups is to increase the overall sample size for the survey. This option is especially desirable if there are multiple groups of interest that would need to be oversampled. However, this approach often increases costs because the overall number of completed interviews needs to be increased substantially to improve the representation of the subgroup(s) of interest.

The studies reported below included an oversample in the sampling design. Among other groups, these studies included oversamples of young people, African Americans, internet users, and parents of young children. See the “About the Survey” section in each report for details.

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