VoiceGR Survey Methodology

VoiceGR began as the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey in 2001. It was a phone survey of 500 randomly selected landline telephones in the city of Grand Rapids, including oversampling of Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American residents. This methodology was used until 2013. Upon assessing the geographic and demographic representativeness of the 2012 VoiceGR data, CRI concluded that landline telephones were no longer a good representation of the underlying population, requiring a change in survey methodology.

Representativeness refers to a survey’s reflection of the underlying population. If a survey is representative of the population that it is attempting to assess, then it will have proportions of respondents that are similar to the underlying population. For example, if 59% of residents of the city of Grand Rapids identify as White, 20% identify as Black/African American, 16% identify as Hispanic/Latino, and 2% identify as Asian, a representative sample would have a demographic breakdown that matches the city. The same would be true for other demographic factors such as gender, income, and education levels.

You will see that VoiceGR refers to both the 100% and 200% poverty levels. The 100% poverty level is the federal guideline set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm) and is often used to determine eligibility for federal assistance programs. The federal poverty level is updated each year based on census data. For VoiceGR, CRI used the 2014 poverty guidelines. The federal poverty level is based on both the total household income and the number of people in the household. The federal poverty guideline for is shown below.

2014 Poverty Guidelines

In the VoiceGR results you will see that both the 100% and 200% federal poverty levels are reported. 100% refers to the numbers shown in the chart at left. 200% is double that number. CRI chose to report 200% poverty level as well since it is commonly more reflective of a living wage than the 100% poverty level.

Research suggests that survey respondents feel less comfortable providing their actual income rather than indicating a range that their income falls into. For example, a respondent whose household income is $23,157 may be more likely to answer if they are able to select that their household income is in the $20,000-$29,999 range than to provide the actual number. VoiceGR utilizes these income categories in order to increase responses rather than asking for raw numbers. As a result, poverty calculations are estimates and are phrased as “near or below” and “near or above”.

VoiceGR 2014 was collected through several methods including paper and online administration. Paper surveys were collected door-to-door by LINC staff in five target geographies: Black Hills, Garfield Park, Grandville, John Ball, and West Grand. In 2015, VoiceGR paper surveys were collected at community events and at community partner organization locations. The VoiceGR survey was also available online and was distributed through a variety of nonprofit and community organizations’ email newsletters and social media.  The hope is that, through partnering with local organizations, CRI can utilize natural networks of communication to encourage greater Grand Rapids residents to complete the survey.

Online survey respondents were asked to approximate their home location by clicking on a map. Paper survey respondents were asked to provide their address or at least their zip code. The online map and address level responses are the only response able to be analyzed geographically and used in CRI’s mapping tools.

In 2016, the VoiceGR survey was conducted both through paper and online administration. Paper surveys were collected at community events and in conjunction with community organizations. Data collection started June 6, 2016 and concluded December 12, 2016. Results for 2016 have been released.


VoiceGR is a product of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

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