I had the great fortune to attend the annual meeting of the Population Association of America last week. I first attended when it was in New York City, and was sort of intimidated by it- in terms of heavy hitters in demographic and population health research, they are all there. The men and women whose work shaped the foundations of most demography students’ understandings of the world go to PAA: Sam Preston was on the program. The guy that LITERALLY wrote the book on life table analysis.
I have come to appreciate the depth of the sessions offered. As a demographer and health researcher, I love the fact that at any time, there are multiple sessions where I might find something of interest or useful to me. This is different than the annual Sociology meetings, where the demography and population health sessions are all held on one day- leaving the demographers either very bored or with a lot of extra time on their hands because many of the sessions are outside of population and health.
Yes, I am aware that this might make me a bad sociologist.
That said, I wandered into the Rand American Life Panel exhibition. “What? Excuse me, what?” You ask.
Well- let me tell you.
RAND has a standing, nationally representative, probability-sampled panel of respondents that can be deployed for survey research. It started in 2003 with a five year grant from NIA to study methodological issues of internet interviewing among older populations. It has expanded from 800 panel members over the age of 40 to over 6000 participants, aged 18 and older. This in and of itself is pretty nifty. But it also includes a vulnerable population cohort (individuals recruited and incentivized from zip code area with high percentages of Hispanics or low-income individuals).
This is cool for primary data collection efforts. Let’s say you get some $$ and want to do a survey research project. But maybe you don’t have the infrastructure or support to have a massive data collection effort. RAND might be a decent avenue for you to get responses to your survey.
But, even cooler, is their data repository. After initial embargoes on it, the data go into a database that can be used *for free* by researchers. The topics are fairly diverse, including life satisfaction, social security and health, presidential polling, health literacy, etc. It’s brilliant.
Very cool, indeed.