We discuss developments in sample survey theory and methods covering the past 100 years. Neyman’s 1934 landmark paper laid the theoretical foundations for the probability sampling approach to inference from survey samples. Classical sampling books by Cochran, Deming, Hansen, Hurwitz and Madow, Sukhatme, and Yates, which appeared in the early 1950s, expanded and elaborated the theory of probability sampling, emphasizing unbiasedness, model free features, and designs that minimize variance for a fixed cost. During the period 1960-1970, theoretical foundations of inference from survey data received attention, with the model-dependent approach generating considerable discussion. Introduction of general purpose statistical software led to the use of such software with survey data, which led to the design of methods specifically for complex survey data. At the same time, weighting methods, such as regression estimation and calibration, became practical and design consistency replaced unbiasedness as the requirement for standard estimators. A bit later, computer-intensive resampling methods also became practical for large scale survey samples. Improved computer power led to more sophisticated imputation for missing data, use of more auxiliary data, some treatment of measurement errors in estimation, and more complex estimation procedures. A notable use of models was in the expanded use of small area estimation. Future directions in research and methods will be influenced by budgets, response rates, timeliness, improved data collection devices, and availability of auxiliary data, some of which will come from “Big Data”. Survey taking will be impacted by changing cultural behavior and by a changing physical-technical environment.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Data collection, History of survey sampling, Probability sampling, Survey inference
Journal Survey Methodology
Citation
Rao, J.N.K, & Fuller, W.A. (Wayne A.). (2017). Sample survey theory and methods: Past, present, and future directions. Survey Methodology, 43(2), 145–160.