Reflections on Online Focus Group Research With Low Socio-Economic Status African American Adults During COVID-19

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online focus groups, equity, digital divide, COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has sped the adoption of online data collection approaches among qualitative researchers. While videoconferencing software has been a tremendous resource for replicating key aspects of the face-to-face focus group environment, online approaches to data collection also face unique challenges. Prior work has offered insights on the value of face-to-face versus online focus groups and strategies for improving the online focus group experience for participants and moderators. However, little has been published on the unique needs of participants from low socio-economic status (SES) populations. In light of the digital divide and the ways in which COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities, researchers must seriously reflect on the ways in which SES and online methods intersect. To address this gap, we present reflections on two online focus groups conducted with low SES African American adults during COVID-19 to offer recommendations on areas of concern and potential solutions for researchers to consider. Three areas stand out as particularly important for reflection: (1) participant privacy, (2) online connectivity, (3) support and time allocations. Greater attention to the impact of SES can help ensure improved opportunities for full and equitable participation, allowing the voices of those who have been marginalized to be heard more clearly.