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Comparing Organizational Sampling Frames


Kalleberg, Arne L.; Marsden, Peter V.; Aldrich, Howard E.; & Cassell, James W. (1990). Comparing Organizational Sampling Frames. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(4), 658-688.


We compare and contrast the representativeness, practicality, and cost of five generally available and commonly used organizational sampling frames: direct enumeration, unemployment insurance (UI) forms, Dun and Bradstreet's Market Identifier (DMI) files, the White Pages of the telephone directory, and Chamber of Commerce membership directories. All five approaches were used to identify a population of business organizations in Durham County, North Carolina. Direct enumeration is an effective approach for locating young organizations but is expensive to implement and likely to miss establishments in construction. Unemployment insurance records and the DMI files are practical: they are machine-readable and contain substantial auxiliary information about each unit. Neither is available on a timely basis, however, and they therefore tend to include somewhat older establishments. The coverage of the Chamber of Commerce Directory is poor, and it contains a strong bias toward larger businesses and a modest one toward older businesses. White Pages of the telephone book give the broadest coverage and the least overall bias but are cumbersome to work with because they are not machine readable and contain numerous duplicate and ineligible entries. Using any of the five approaches would yield a more representative sample of businesses than is typical in organizational research. On balance, however, the DMI and UI files are probably the most useful sampling frames among those we studied.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Administrative Science Quarterly


Kalleberg, Arne L.
Marsden, Peter V.
Aldrich, Howard E.
Cassell, James W.