Sunday, December 7, 2008

Survey Questions

This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder about survey results: I just got a call for an "air quality survey" that asked, among other things, if I am full-time employed, retired, or a housewife. No other options. I am none of the above; I am a freelance writer (part-time employed) and a homeschooling mom. First he decided that I refused to answer the question because I said "none of the above". No, I answered the question. Then he threatened to put down retired. I finally gave up and chose the closest answer: full-time employed. That seemed to make him happy. But it makes me wonder about the validity of the final results for whatever his survey is really studying.

The refusal to include some kind of "other" category, to recognize that not everyone fits in the neat categories that fit the image of people working full-time for major companies until they retire, fits in with the push to tie health insurance to employment. That plan seriously penalizes all the people who don't work for companies - all the consultants and free-lancers and self-employed people who make up a large part of the workforce in smaller communities (and possibly larger communities, too). Policy- (and survey-) makers ignore the huge variety of working arrangements that exist in real life, possibly because they are used more often by women who are balancing work and family. Or maybe because it is simpler that way. Too bad real life is often messy!