Didn’t travel or just being lazy? An empirical study of soft-refusal in mobility diaries

Mathijs de Haas*, Maarten Kroesen, Caspar Chorus, Sascha Hoogendoorn-Lanser, Serge Hoogendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In mobility panels, respondents may use a strategy of soft-refusal to lower their response burden, e.g. by claiming they did not leave their house even though they actually did. Soft-refusal leads to poor data quality and may complicate research, e.g. focused on people with actual low mobility. In this study we develop three methods to detect the presence of soft-refusal in mobility panels, based on respectively (observed and predicted) out-of-home activity, straightlining and speeding. For each indicator, we explore the relation with reported immobility and panel attrition. The results show that speeding and straightlining in a questionnaire is strongly related to reported immobility in a (self-reported) travel diary. Using a binary logit model, respondents who are predicted to leave their home but report no trips are identified as possible soft refusers. To reveal different patterns of soft-refusal and assess how these patterns influence the probability to drop out of the panel, a latent transition model is estimated. The results show four behavioral patterns with respect to soft-refusal ranging from a large class of reliable respondents who score positive on all three soft-refusal indicators, to a small ‘high-risk’ class of respondents who score poorly on all indicators. This ‘high-risk’ group also reports the highest immobility and has the highest attrition rate. The model also shows that respondents who do not drop out of the panel, tend to stay in the same behavioral pattern over time. The amount of soft-refusal expressed by a respondent therefore seems to be a stable behavioral trait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Attrition
  • Latent transition analysis
  • Mobility panels
  • Response behavior
  • Soft-refusal
  • Speeding
  • Straightlining
  • Travel behavior


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