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NCVS Sample Design and Redesign


To produce estimates on criminal victimization, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) collects information from a sample of U.S. households that represents the nation. The sample design consists of two stages.

The first stage of sampling involves the definition, stratification, and selection of primary sampling units (PSUs), which are defined as a large metropolitan area, county, or group of counties. First-stage sampling occurs once every ten years to account for shifts in the population identified through the most recent decennial census. When BJS discusses sample redesign, it is referring to the first-stage sample.

The first-stage sample of the NCVS was most recently redesigned in 2016 with two goals:

  1. to reflect changes in the U.S. population based on the 2010 decennial census
  2. to make it possible to produce direct state- and local-level victimization estimates for the largest 22 states and specific metropolitan areas within those states.

For more information about the most recent NCVS sample redesign to account for changes in the population, see National Crime Victimization Survey, 2016: Technical Documentation and Criminal Victimization, 2016: Revised. For more information about expanding and redistributing the NCVS to sample produce state and local estimates of victimization, see NCVS Subnational Estimates.

The next NCVS sample redesign to reflect changes in the U.S. population is scheduled for 2026, based on the 2020 decennial census.

The second stage of sampling occurs every year for housing units and every 3 years for group quarters. Within the PSUs selected, the sampling process identifies addresses to be included in the sample and interviews are conducted with persons and households at those addresses. Once selected, households remain in the sample for 3.5 years, and eligible persons in these households are interviewed every 6 months, for a total of seven interviews. If the residents of a given household move during this period, the new residents at that address will be interviewed. For more information, see National Crime Victimization Survey, 2016: Technical Documentation.

Frequently asked questions

Date Created: August 1, 2022