The University of Arizona

Designing Valid and Reliable Vignette Experiments for Survey Research: A Case Study on the Fair Gender Income Gap

Peter M. Steiner, Christiane Atzmüller, Dan Su


In survey research, vignette experiments typically employ short, systematically varied descriptions of situations or persons (called vignettes) to elicit the beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors of respondents with respect to the presented scenarios. Using a case study on the fair gender income gap in Austria, we discuss how different design elements can be used to increase a vignette experiment’s validity and reliability. With respect to the experimental design, the design elements considered include a confounded factorial design, a between-subjects factor, anchoring vignettes, and blocking by respondent strata and interviewers. The design elements for the sampling and survey design consist of stratification, covariate measurements, and the systematic assignment of vignette sets to respondents and interviewers. Moreover, the vignettes’ construct validity is empirically validated with respect to the real gender income gap in Austria. We demonstrate how a broad range of design elements can successfully increase a vignette study’s validity and reliability.


Vignette experiment; factorial survey; confounded factorial design; anchoring vignettes; ANOVA; multilevel modeling

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