Research Sampling

# Cluster Sampling – Types, Method and Examples

## Cluster Sampling

Definition:

Cluster sampling is a probability sampling method used in research studies where the population is large and geographically dispersed. In cluster sampling, the population is divided into groups, or clusters, based on some criterion, such as geographic location, and a random sample of clusters is selected.

After selecting the clusters, all individuals or units within the selected clusters are included in the sample. This approach can be more efficient than simple random sampling because it reduces the time and cost of sampling by reducing the number of locations to visit. Cluster sampling is commonly used in surveys, epidemiological studies, and market research.

### Types of Cluster Sampling

There are two main types of cluster sampling:

#### Single-stage cluster sampling

In this type, the clusters are randomly selected and all individuals within the selected clusters are included in the sample. This approach is useful when the number of clusters is relatively small and homogeneity within each cluster is high.

#### Two-stage cluster sampling

In this type, a random sample of clusters is first selected, and then a random sample of individuals within the selected clusters is chosen. This approach is useful when the number of clusters is large and heterogeneity within each cluster is high.

Two-stage cluster sampling can be further divided into two types:

• Probability proportional to size (PPS) sampling: In this type, the probability of selecting a cluster is proportional to its size. Larger clusters have a higher probability of being selected than smaller ones. This approach is useful when the size of the cluster is related to the variable of interest.
• Unequal probability sampling: In this type, clusters are selected with different probabilities, which are usually based on some stratification or clustering criterion. This approach is useful when the size of the cluster is not related to the variable of interest, but other characteristics of the clusters are related.

### Cluster Sampling Method

Cluster sampling is a statistical sampling method used in research studies where the population is large and geographically dispersed. The cluster sampling method involves the following steps:

• Define the population: The first step in cluster sampling is to define the population of interest. The population can be any group of individuals or units that share a common characteristic, such as geographic location.
• Select clusters: Next, the population is divided into clusters based on some criterion, such as geographic location or social grouping. Clusters should be heterogeneous to ensure that the sample is representative of the population.
• Randomly select clusters: A random sample of clusters is selected from the population. The size of the sample depends on the research question, the level of precision required, and the resources available.
• Include all individuals or units within the selected clusters: All individuals or units within the selected clusters are included in the sample. This means that there is no need to randomly select individuals within the clusters.
• Analyze the data: The data collected from the sample is analyzed using statistical methods to draw conclusions about the population.

### Cluster Sampling Formula

The formula for calculating the sample size in cluster sampling depends on the specific type of cluster sampling being used. Here are the formulas for the two main types of cluster sampling:

#### Single-stage cluster sampling:

n = (Z^2 * P * Q * M) / [(Z^2 * P * Q) + M – 1]

Where:

• n = sample size
• Z = the z-score associated with the desired level of confidence
• P = the proportion of the population with the characteristic of interest
• Q = 1 – P
• M = the average cluster size

#### Two-stage cluster sampling

n = [Z^2 * P * Q * (N / M)] / [(Z^2 * P * Q * (N / M)) + (N – 1)]

Where:

• n = sample size
• Z = the z-score associated with the desired level of confidence
• P = the proportion of the population with the characteristic of interest
• Q = 1 – P
• N = the total population size
• M = the average cluster size

In both formulas, the average cluster size (M) is an important parameter that affects the sample size calculation. Larger clusters require a smaller sample size, while smaller clusters require a larger sample size to achieve the same level of precision. Therefore, researchers should carefully consider the cluster size when designing a cluster sampling study.

### Cluster Sampling Examples

Here are some examples of cluster sampling:

• A researcher is interested in studying the prevalence of obesity in the United States. She divides the country into regions and randomly selects several states from each region. She then selects several cities from each state and several neighborhoods from each city. All individuals living in the selected neighborhoods are included in the sample. This is an example of two-stage cluster sampling.
• A company wants to conduct a customer satisfaction survey of its retail stores. The company divides the country into regions and randomly selects several stores from each region. All customers who visit the selected stores during a specified time period are given a survey to complete. This is an example of single-stage cluster sampling.
• A public health agency wants to estimate the prevalence of a rare disease in a large city. The city is divided into several census tracts, and several tracts are randomly selected. All individuals living in the selected tracts are contacted and screened for the disease. This is an example of two-stage cluster sampling.

#### Cluster Sampling Example Situation

Here’s an example situation where cluster sampling may be used:

Suppose a market research company wants to conduct a survey to determine the satisfaction level of customers at a retail store chain. The retail store chain has hundreds of stores across the country, and it would be time-consuming and expensive to survey all customers at all stores. Instead, the market research company could use cluster sampling to select a representative sample of stores to survey.

First, the company could divide the retail stores into clusters, such as regions or states. Then, they could randomly select a sample of clusters to survey, such as 10 states. Within each selected state, the company could randomly select a sample of stores to survey, such as 10 stores per state.

By using cluster sampling, the market research company can obtain a representative sample of customers at the retail store chain while minimizing the time and cost of the survey. The results can then be analyzed to determine the overall satisfaction level of customers at the retail store chain, which can be used to make business decisions and improve customer satisfaction.

Once the clusters and the stores within the clusters have been randomly selected, the market research company can proceed with the survey. They may choose to conduct the survey in person, over the phone, or online. The survey could include questions about the customers’ overall satisfaction with the retail store chain, the quality of products, the level of customer service, and other relevant factors.

After the survey has been conducted, the market research company can analyze the data to determine the satisfaction level of customers at the retail store chain. They may calculate averages, percentages, and other statistical measures to summarize the results. They may also compare the results between different clusters or regions to identify any differences in customer satisfaction levels.

### Applications of Cluster Sampling

Here are some common applications of cluster sampling:

• Market research: Cluster sampling is widely used in market research to study customer satisfaction, product preferences, and consumer behavior. Retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses can be divided into clusters, such as geographic regions, and a sample of clusters can be randomly selected for surveying.
• Public health: Cluster sampling is commonly used in public health research to study the prevalence of diseases and health behaviors. For example, a study on the prevalence of diabetes in a city may randomly select clusters of neighborhoods and survey individuals within those neighborhoods.
• Social sciences: Cluster sampling is used in social sciences research to study various social phenomena, such as education, poverty, and crime. For example, a study on the effect of educational interventions on student performance may randomly select clusters of schools and survey students within those schools.
• Environmental research: Cluster sampling is also used in environmental research to study the health of ecosystems and the impact of pollution. For example, a study on the impact of oil spills in a region may randomly select clusters of water bodies and survey the aquatic life within those water bodies.
• Agricultural research: Cluster sampling is used in agricultural research to study crop yields and farming practices. For example, a study on the effectiveness of a new fertilizer may randomly select clusters of farms and survey farmers within those farms.

### When to use Cluster Sampling

Cluster sampling is a suitable sampling technique when the population of interest is large and widely dispersed, making it difficult or expensive to sample individuals individually. Here are some situations where cluster sampling may be appropriate:

• Geographically dispersed populations: Cluster sampling is useful when the population of interest is spread over a large geographic area. For example, a national survey of households in a country may use cluster sampling by dividing the country into clusters, such as provinces or states, and then randomly selecting a sample of clusters for surveying.
• Limited resources: Cluster sampling can be a cost-effective way of sampling when resources are limited. For example, a public health researcher may use cluster sampling to study the prevalence of a disease in a rural area, where individual sampling of every household is not feasible due to limited resources.
• Limited time: Cluster sampling can be a time-efficient way of sampling when time is limited. For example, a researcher studying customer satisfaction at a retail store chain with hundreds of stores may use cluster sampling by dividing the stores into clusters based on regions and then randomly selecting a sample of clusters for surveying.
• Natural groupings: Cluster sampling can be appropriate when the population of interest naturally groups into clusters. For example, schools can be grouped into clusters based on geographic locations, and a researcher studying the effectiveness of an educational intervention may use cluster sampling by randomly selecting a sample of clusters and then surveying students within those schools.

### Purpose of Cluster Sampling

The main purpose of cluster sampling is to reduce the cost and time of data collection. It is particularly useful when the population is large and geographically dispersed, making it difficult and expensive to sample the entire population. In this case, cluster sampling allows researchers to select a smaller number of clusters and collect data from those clusters, reducing the time and cost associated with collecting data from each individual in the population.

Cluster sampling is also useful when the population is heterogeneous, meaning that it contains subgroups that are different from each other in some way. By selecting clusters that are representative of each subgroup, researchers can obtain a sample that is more diverse and representative of the population as a whole.

### Characteristics of Cluster Sampling

Some of the key characteristics of cluster sampling are:

• Cluster sampling is a two-stage sampling technique: The first stage involves dividing the population into clusters, while the second stage involves selecting a sample of clusters for analysis.
• Clusters should be representative of the population: Clusters should be selected in a way that they are representative of the population as a whole. This means that each cluster should be similar to the other clusters in the population in terms of key characteristics.
• Clusters should be homogenous: Within each cluster, the individuals should be as similar as possible to each other in terms of key characteristics. This is to ensure that the cluster is as representative as possible of the population as a whole.
• Larger clusters are generally preferred: Larger clusters are generally preferred as they help to increase the efficiency of the sampling process and reduce the cost of data collection.
• Simple random sampling is used to select clusters: Simple random sampling is often used to select clusters for analysis. This ensures that every cluster has an equal chance of being selected, and reduces the risk of bias in the sampling process.
• Sample size is typically smaller: Cluster sampling typically involves a smaller sample size than other sampling techniques, as it is designed to be more efficient and cost-effective.

Cluster sampling has several advantages over other sampling techniques, some of which are:

• Increased efficiency: Cluster sampling can be more efficient than other sampling techniques, particularly when the population is large and geographically dispersed. This is because it allows researchers to sample a smaller number of clusters, rather than sampling individuals from across the entire population, thereby reducing the time and cost involved in data collection.
• Cost-effective: Cluster sampling can be a cost-effective way of sampling a large population, particularly when the cost of traveling to each individual in the population is high. By selecting clusters that are representative of the population, researchers can collect data more efficiently and cost-effectively.
• Improved sampling accuracy: Cluster sampling can result in improved sampling accuracy, as it allows researchers to sample a diverse range of individuals within each cluster, thereby capturing a range of characteristics that may be present within the population.
• Easy to implement: Cluster sampling is relatively easy to implement, particularly when compared to other sampling techniques such as stratified random sampling or systematic random sampling.
• Reduction of bias: Cluster sampling can help reduce bias in the sampling process, particularly when clusters are selected in a way that is representative of the population. This can result in a more accurate representation of the population as a whole.

Disadvantages of Cluster Sampling are as follows:

• Reduced precision: Cluster sampling may result in reduced precision or accuracy compared to other sampling techniques. This is because clusters may not be as diverse as individual samples, and there may be more variation within clusters than across the entire population.
• Increased sampling error: Cluster sampling can result in increased sampling error, particularly if there is a high degree of variability within clusters. This can lead to less accurate estimates of population parameters.
• Cluster selection bias: The selection of clusters may introduce bias into the sample if clusters are not selected in a way that is representative of the population. This can result in a sample that is not fully representative of the population as a whole.
• Increased complexity: Cluster sampling can be more complex than other sampling techniques, particularly if the clusters are not clearly defined or if there are many subgroups within the population that need to be represented in the sample.
• Potential for information loss: Cluster sampling can result in information loss if clusters are not representative of the population or if there is a high degree of variability within clusters. This can lead to less accurate estimates of population parameters.