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“Capturing What Matters – Essential Guidelines for Designing Household Surveys” is out now!

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Capturing What Matters
      Download the guidebook

Reliable data is a critical tool in the fight against extreme poverty. Household surveys, as the primary source of such data, play a fundamental role in understanding the welfare of the world’s poor and monitoring progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

To improve and modernize nationally representative multi-topic household surveys for tracking welfare and poverty, the LSMS group has just released the guidebook, Capturing What Matters: Essential Guidelines for Designing Household Surveys (second edition).

This guidebook is a consolidation of field-tested best practices to implement, improve, and modernize nationally representative multi-topic household surveys for monitoring welfare and poverty.

This guidebook is intended to be an essential tool for survey practitioners in low- and middle-income countries – such as NSOs, development partners, educators, researchers, and students implementing household surveys. It is a living document and will be continually updated as new recommendations become available.

Designing Household Survey Questionnaires

When preparing a household survey, priority policy issues and availability of resources determine the selection of modules as well as the level of detail at which data will be collected. This guidebook discusses different types of multi-topic household surveys and provides an overview of recommended topics to be covered in such surveys, how they serve to address SDGs and other welfare indicators. For many of the recommended topics, it provides considerations to take into account when determining the inclusion and level of detail, as well as comprehensive information on designing each section. Currently, this detailed information is provided for many of the core modules (household roster, education, health including disability, labor, food consumption, housing, land tenure security), agriculture-related modules (land area measurement, crop production, ag labor, livestock, forestry), as well as some special focus topics (migration, conflict exposure). While this guidebook provides a consolidated overview of the survey design needs for the entire questionnaire, it also includes references to module-specific guidebooks where survey designers can find more targeted information on how to prepare each specific module. Not only is there guidance, there is also a complete sample questionnaire containing all modules, as well as designer notes for preparing or modifying it as needed for specific survey contexts. An example of a questionnaire module is also available in fully editable excel and Survey Solutions versions.


Life Cycle Survey

Survey Process Life Cycle

Beyond detailed guidance on questionnaire design, the guidebook also summarizes key areas of the survey lifecycle, with chapters providing an introduction to each of these topics:

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer several ways to improve, maintain, or even redefine sampling frames between censuses. This guidebook discusses the potential integration of GIS data and methods in various phases of survey implementation.
  • When using Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI), data is available faster and quality controls are incorporated into the interview process itself, minimizing the likelihood of enumerator error and increasing the likelihood of more accurate data.
  • Data is of no value unless it’s properly documented and shared. The Documentation and Dissemination chapter summarizes international standards and best practices for ensuring data are properly curated and disseminated and features the World Bank’s Microdata Library as a platform for this.


Read the guidebook Capturing What Matters: Essential Guidelines for Designing Household Surveys

Download the fully editable questionnaire templates for excel and Survey Solutions

For more in-depth information on the various questionnaire modules and thematic survey areas, browse the selection of all available LSMS guidebooks here:



Josefine Durazo

Survey Specialist, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Maryam Gul

Consultant, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Gbemisola Oseni

Senior Economist, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Amparo Palacios-Lopez

Senior Economist, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Giulia Altomare

Communications Consultant, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

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