Methodology

New Resident Household Survey

A self-administered questionnaire was mailed in May and June to approximately 2,350 households in six communities. Wayne and Sidney are the Nebraska communities involved in the study. South Dakota communities of Hot Springs/Edgemont and Groton were also included along with the communities of Underwood and Stanley in North Dakota. The surveys were sent to the Nebraska communities using purchased mailing lists designed to identify households that were new to the area in the last five years. In South Dakota and North Dakota, local utility lists were used to identify new customers within the past five years. The return rate for usable surveys was 18 percent. The total number of returned surveys and response rates for each individual community were as follows: Groton (39, 29%), Hot Springs/Edgemont (116, 19%), Wayne (102, 20%), Sidney (113, 12%), Underwood (22, 31%) and Stanley (27, 23%). A total of 419 new movers to these six communities since 2000 are the basis for the study. The 14 page questionnaire included questions pertaining to the new residents' background, reasons for moving, decision making tools used and views of their current community.

Labor Vacancy Survery

The survey instrument is based on the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Vacancy Survey program.  However, additional questions were added by the research team based on previous academic and government surveys.  Also, the format was changed to make it easier to complete based on current survey design research.  The survey was extensively reviewed by the research team and community partners.  In addition, the survey was reviewed by outside experts in survey research.  A copy of the survey instrument can be found here (LINK).

The sampling areas were identified by both the research team and community partners.  Data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics was used to identify areas where local residents commuted to jobs.  From this information a set of postal ZIP codes were identified to approximate the employment shed in each community.  These areas were modified based on input from community partners. 

The sampling frame contained all known business establishments in the sampling area.  Lists of employers were obtained through InfoUSA and Dun and Bradstreet.  Both lists were reconciled to provide a more accurate and reliable sampling frame.  In addition, the final employer list was screened and updated by community partners.  This included adding any missing firms, dropping non-existent ones, and verifying addresses and contact information.

A self-administered questionnaire was mailed in August and September of 2009 to all employers in the sampling area.  The data collection process consisted of four treatments: (1) mailing of a pre-notification letter including frequently asked questions about the survey, (2) mailing of an informed consent letter and survey booklet, (3) a postcard reminder, and (4) a replacement letter and survey booklet.  In addition, large businesses who had not responded to the survey after the fourth treatment were contacted by phone or in person, and asked to complete the survey. 

To make the sample as representative as possible to the local employment structure, data for large missing employers was imputed from similar businesses in other communities.  Imputed data were adjusted for employment size.  Using imputed data provides a more accurate picture of the local economy than using data excluding large employers.  However, only two of the six communities needed to have data imputed, with one community needing only one imputation and the other needing nine imputations.  The data were weighted to reflect the population of employers in the region.  Weights were derived from secondary data sources, specifically the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns.  Weighted employment totals from the survey generally matched totals from published federal sources.   

Focus Groups

Online Focus Group: Letters were sent to randomly selected persons living in places where current new residents previously lived. If the new residents were interested in completing the survey, particiaptns returned a form that included their email address. An email was then sent with the survey URL. Seven completed the Groton survey, nine completed the Hot Springs/Edgemont survey, 10 completed the Underwood survey, 11 completed the Stanley survey, 12 completed the Wayne survey (spring 2011), and 14 completed the Sidney survey (spring 2011).

Local Focus Group: The face-to-face focus groups, also conducted in the spring of 2011, were designed to gather input from new residents to the community who were identified through an initial household survey of new movers. Participants in the face-to-face focus groups were identified from a list of respondents to the household survey who returned a post card indicating their willingness to participate. In addition, each community identified individuals interested in marketing the community and invited them to participate in the focus groups creating a group that was a combination of new residents and existing residents. Fifty-two individuals participated in the six focus groups held in each community. The size of the focus groups ranged from 4-16. When appropriate, participants were divided into two to three groups to allow all participants more opportunity to provide feedback. Additional information on the protocol.