Privacy and confidentiality are often of great concern to respondents answering sensitive questions posed by interviewers. Using the 1993–2010 General Social Survey, we examined trends in the provision of social security numbers (SSNs) and correlates of those responses. Results indicate that the rate of SSN provision has declined over the past three decades, that is, from about 60% in 1993–1994 to 20% after 2004. Although younger, unmarried, and less-educated respondents are more likely to provide SSNs, an indicator of trust toward others is not a significant predictor of SSN provision. Further, those who refuse to report their income and who receive an incentive are less likely to provide their SSN. Our findings have implications for studies involving sensitive questions as well as privacy and confidentiality issues.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities [1RC2MD004768-01]. A preliminary version of this article was presented at the 2011 meeting of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research, Chicago, November 19, 2011. This article was developed while the second author was at the NORC at the University of Chicago. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the National Center for Health Statistics.
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