Syndicate content

Weekly links January 19: Five hour interviews are fun, no to industrial policy, college mobility, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • Interview with Mark Rosenzweig: “One of the advantages of studying developing countries is that it’s cheap to collect data and the response rates are much higher than in the United States. I’ve helped lead a survey in the U.S. of 8,500 households — it cost $23 million. In India, where the questionnaire is probably eight times longer, the total cost is about $750,000... Five hours is a substantial commitment of time, what’s the response rate? Our response would be somewhere around 90%. People enjoy telling you about their stuff. I’ve surveyed a lot of farmers in India and they want to show you everything. They enjoy it. People there value their time differently than we do. In most villages there are no cinemas or shopping centers there. There’s no television. They enjoy talking to people. That’s different than here. We all have better things to do than sitting down and answering silly questions over the phone, let alone allowing somebody into your house. Sitting down and talking to people is an interesting activity for these folks.”


Submitted by Lloyd Owen Banwart on

The interview with Mark Rosenzweig is interesting; I've also observed (and appreciated) the willingness of households in developing settings to undertake (very) long surveys. However my observations in East Africa and South Asia suggest this may soon (if not already) be coming to an end. Simply put, the opportunity cost of a poor or extremely poor household member to participate in a long survey has historically been low. This cost is increasing. Two reasons for the increased opportunity cost that I have observed are 1) multiple surveys (from the same or different organizations) are increasing survey fatigue and, 2) the relative recent increase in mobile phones and broader network coverage are providing more interesting alternatives to participating in a survey.

Submitted by Heather on

I agree that the era of "people value their time differently," insofar as it existed, is shifting. It's happening in urban areas & peri-urban areas, in my experience, and among some professions like teachers. My experience with one-person shopkeepers in northern Ghana, though, is that they were pleased enough for the company if the enumerators would wait while they had business. It's probably time for the conversation to get more nuances than national or regional level.

Submitted by NS on

I find the comments from Mark Rosenzweig rather displeasing. It's one thing to state that surveys are cheaper to conduct in developing countries, and quite another to imply that people "over there" don't have anything better to do than invite you into their homes and answer your questions. We should be more respectful of those who allow us to conduct our research.

Add new comment