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New Submission to Advances in Anthropology

Assessing Respondent Driven Sampling for Network Studies in Ethnographic Contexts

Kirk Dombrowski (Social Networks Research Group, CUNY)*
Bilal Khan (John Jay College and SNRG)
Joshua Moses (McGill University)
Emily Channell (CUNY Graduate Center)
Evan Misshula (CUNY Graduate Center)

December 18, 2012

Abstract: Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) is generally considered a methodology for recruiting “hard-to-reach” populations for social research. More recently, Wejnert has argued that RDS analysis can be used for general social network analysis as well (where he labels it, RDS-SN). In this paper, we assess the value of Wejnert’s RDS-SN for use in more traditional ethnographic contexts. We employed RDS as part of a larger social network research project to recruit n=330 community residents (over 17 years of age) in Nain, a predominantly (92%) aboriginal community in northern Labrador, Canada, for social network interviews about food sharing, housing, public health, and community traditions. The peer referral chains resulted in a sample that was then analyzed for its representativeness by two means—a comparison with the Statistics Canada 2006 Census of the same community, and with house-by-house demographic surveys carried out in community as part of our research. The results show a close fit with known available community statistics and our own survey. As such, we argue that the RDS sampling used in Nain was able to provide a useful and near-representative sample of the community. To demonstrate the usefulness of the results, the referral chains are also analyzed here for patterns in intragroup and intergroup relationships that were apparent only in the aggregate.
Keywords: Respondent Driven Sampling, Labrador Inuit, Ethnographic Methods, Network Sampling, Arctic Social Science