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Household Surveys

Can a picture from space help to measure poverty in a Guatemalan village?

Andrea Coppola's picture

Also available in: Español

John Grunsfeld, former NASA Chief Scientist and veteran of five Space Shuttle flights, had several chances to look down at Earth, and noticed how poverty can be recognized from far away. Unlike richer countries, typically lined in green, poorer countries with less access to water are a shocking brown color. During the night, wealthier countries light up the sky whereas nations with less widespread electricity look dim.
Dr. Grunsfeld’s observation might have important implications. Pictures from satellites could become a tool to help identifying where poverty is, by zooming in to the tiniest villages and allowing a constant monitoring that cannot be achieved with traditional surveys.

More people in the developing world are eating out. Measuring this well could change our understanding of poverty and inequality

Renos Vakis's picture
Most of you probably buy lunch during the week, but can you recall what you ate yesterday? How about last week, did you snack in the afternoon? How much did you spend? Answering these questions is not as easy as you think, is it? Food consumed away from home (‘FAFH’ in short) represents an increasing share of food consumption around the world, caused by various factors including increasing urbanization, female labor force participation and evolving food systems that have made food availability easier.

When bad people do good surveys

Markus Goldstein's picture
So there I was, a graduate student doing my PhD fieldwork.    In the rather hot office at the University of Ghana, I was going through questionnaire after questionnaire checking for consistency, missed questions and other dimensions of quality.   All of a sudden I saw a pattern:  in the time allocation questions, men in one village seemed to be doing the exact same things, for the same amount of time, on two very different days of the week.  

Getting to better data: Talking to strangers

Markus Goldstein's picture
About 15 years ago, when I was doing my dissertation research with a professor with experience in fieldwork, we did a 15 round survey with households in Ghana.   Given the frequency of the visits, we based the enumerators in the village.  But we were careful to hire enumerators from nearby big towns -- not the villages in which we were working.  This was partly for skills, but mostly to make sure that the enumerators wouldn't be asking sensitive questions of people they knew.   

To measure poverty over time, we need to do more!

Luc Christiaensen's picture

The latest World Bank estimates suggest that the percentage of the developing world’s population living below $1.25 a day declined from 52% in 1981 to 22% in 2008. While this indicates that there is still a long way to go in poverty reduction, the progress is encouraging. Moreover, we now also appear to be in a much better position to make such statements. The numbers above, by my colleagues at the Department Research Group, are based on over 850 household surveys for nearly 130 developing countries, representing 90% of the population of the developing world. By contrast, they used only 22 surveys for 22 countries when the first such estimates were reported in the 1990 World Development Report.

Measuring Migration in Multi-Topic Household Surveys: A Worthwhile Opportunity

Alan de Brauw's picture

As international migration and migrant remittances have increased in recent years, there is a clear need for improved data on international migration and migrant remittances to understand the effects that various policies can have on migrants and migrant households.  In a new paper, we argue that large, multi-purpose data collection efforts present good opportunities to study migration in a cost-effective manner.  Many countries now implement nationally representative, multi-topic household surveys à la Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) surveys, primarily for the purposes of welfare monitoring and analysis.  Although LSMS survey questionnaires are designed to study numerous aspects of household welfare and behavior, collecting detailed migration information has not been a priority for most multi-topic household surveys, resulting in large knowledge gaps on migration. Integrating migration information into these data collection efforts can be an efficient way to collect migration data. 

What do existing household surveys tell us about gender? It depends which sector you ask

Julie Babinard's picture

A very good panel discussion this week on Gender Equality Data and Tools at the Bank reminded me of the research we did in transport on household surveys with my friend and a World Bank colleague, Kinnon Scott. In retrospect, this work should be better advertised as it touches upon many of the points that were raised on the importance of gender-relevant data for policy. The three main questions that follow permeate t

Welfare, Assets, Data Availability and the Living Standards Measurement Study

Kinnon Scott's picture

One is always grateful to see attention paid to the quality and quantity of household data available to study poverty. It is a subject dear to my heart and to my colleagues in the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS ) in the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, as a recent Global Dashboard post titled “What do we really know about poverty and inequality?” by Claire Melamed points out, there is still a dearth of data, even after years of government effort and international support. But there are data -- in some countries lots of data -- so it’s worth highlighting what is there. Today I wanted to add some nuance to the discussion of income and assets raised by Claire and, probably more importantly, steer people to some new data that will, we hope, excite the most blasé of you out there.