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From design to practice: how can large-scale household surveys better represent the complexities of the social units under investigation?

Listed author(s):
  • Kriel, Antoinette
  • Randall, Sara
  • Coast, Ernestina
  • de Clercq, Bernadene

The way in which ‘the household’ is defined and operationalised in surveys and census data collection has long been criticised as unable to adequately capture the complexities of the social units within which people live. In a South African national survey on household wealth (HWS) a definition of the household was used to rep-resent the ways in which South African households arrange themselves financially. Here we report on a qualitative study in which 36 households originally included in the HWS were re-interviewed to collect detailed data on household financial links and dependencies. Households with more complex structures, which represent the majority of household types in South Africa, were very poorly represented, and possible reasons for this are explored. We analyse and discuss the HWS research process in the light of the findings of this study, and propose ways to improve large-scale survey design and data collection, drawing on perspectives from multiple disciplines.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 59737.

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Date of creation: 2014
Publication status: Published in African Population Studies, 2014, 28(3), pp. 1309-1323. ISSN: 0850-5780
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:59737
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  1. Beaman, Lori & Dillon, Andrew, 2012. "Do household definitions matter in survey design? Results from a randomized survey experiment in Mali," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 124-135.
  2. Fisher, Monica & Reimer, Jeffrey J. & Carr, Edward R., 2010. "Who Should be Interviewed in Surveys of Household Income?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 966-973, July.
  3. Peter Little & M. Priscilla Stone & Tewodaj Mogues & A. Peter Castro & Workneh Negatu, 2006. "'Moving in place': Drought and poverty dynamics in South Wollo, Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 200-225.
  4. Ann Whitehead, 2006. "Persistent poverty in North East Ghana," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 278-300.
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