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Developing a weighting strategy to include mobile phone numbers into an ongoing population health survey using an overlapping dual-frame design with limited benchmark information

Margo L Barr12*, Raymond A Ferguson1, Phil J Hughes2 and David G Steel2

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health, 73 Miller Street, North Sydney, Australia

2 National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2014, 14:102  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-102

Published: 4 September 2014



In 2012 mobile phone numbers were included into the ongoing New South Wales Population Health Survey (NSWPHS) using an overlapping dual-frame design. Previously in the NSWPHS the sample was selected using random digit dialing (RDD) of landline phone numbers. The survey was undertaken using computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). The weighting strategy needed to be significantly expanded to manage the differing probabilities of selection by frame, including that of children of mobile-only phone users, and to adjust for the increased chance of selection of dual-phone users. This paper describes the development of the final weighting strategy to properly combine the data from two overlapping sample frames accounting for the fact that population benchmarks for the different sampling frames were not available at the state or regional level.


Estimates of the number of phone numbers for the landline and mobile phone frames used to calculate the differing probabilities of selection by frame, for New South Wales (NSW) and by stratum, were obtained by apportioning Australian estimates as none were available for NSW. The weighting strategy was then developed by calculating person selection probabilities, selection weights, applying a constant composite factor to the dual-phone users sample weights, and benchmarking to the latest NSW population by age group, sex and stratum.


Data from the NSWPHS for the first quarter of 2012 was used to test the weighting strategy. This consisted of data on 3395 respondents with 2171 (64%) from the landline frame and 1224 (36%) from the mobile frame. However, in order to calculate the weights, data needed to be available for all core weighting variables and so 3378 respondents, 2933 adults and 445 children, had sufficient data to be included. Average person weights were 3.3 times higher for the mobile-only respondents, 1.3 times higher for the landline-only respondents and 1.7 times higher for dual-phone users in the mobile frame compared to the dual-phone users in the landline frame. The overall weight effect for the first quarter of 2012 was 1.93 and the coefficient of variation of the weights was 0.96. The weight effects for 2012 were similar to, and in many cases less than, the effects found in the corresponding quarter of the 2011 NSWPHS when only a landline based sample was used.


The inclusion of mobile phone numbers, through an overlapping dual-frame design, improved the coverage of the survey and an appropriate weighing procedure is feasible, although it added substantially to the complexity of the weighting strategy. Access to accurate Australian, State and Territory estimates of the number of landline and mobile phone numbers and type of phone use by at least age group and sex would greatly assist in the weighting of dual-frame surveys in Australia.