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Do household definitions matter in survey design?


  • Beaman, Lori
  • Dillon, Andrew


Household definitions used in multi-topic household surveys vary between surveys but have potentially significant implications for household composition, production, and poverty statistics. Standard definitions of the household usually include some intersection of keywords relating to residency requirements, common food consumption, and intermingling of income or production decisions. Despite best practices intending to standardize the definition of the household, it is unclear which types of definitions or which intersections of keywords in a definition result in different household compositions. This paper conducts a randomized survey experiment of four different household definitions in Mali to examine the implications for household-level statistics. This approach permits analysis of the trade-offs between alternative definition types. We find that additional keywords in definitions increase rather than decrease household size and significantly alter household composition. Definitions emphasizing common consumption or joint production increase estimates of the levels of household assets and consumption statistics, but not on per adult equivalency asset and consumption statistics, relative to open-ended definitions of the household. In contrast, definition type did not affect production statistics in levels, although we observe significant differences in per adult equivalency terms. Our findings suggest that variations in household definition have implications for measuring household welfare and production over time and across countries, as well as evaluation studies where the correct measure of spillover effects within and across households is necessary for measuring the benefits of an intervention.

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  • Beaman, Lori & Dillon, Andrew, 2010. "Do household definitions matter in survey design?," IFPRI discussion papers 1009, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1009

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Megan Beckett & Julie Da Vanzo & Narayan Sastry & Constantijn Panis & Christine Peterson, 2001. "The Quality of Retrospective Data: An Examination of Long-Term Recall in a Developing Country," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(3), pages 593-625.
    2. Richard Akresh, 2009. "Flexibility of Household Structure: Child Fostering Decisions in Burkina Faso," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
    3. Seale, James & Regmi, Anita & Bernstein, Jason, 2003. "International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns," Technical Bulletins 184321, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Udry, Christopher, 1996. "Gender, Agricultural Production, and the Theory of the Household," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1010-1046, October.
    5. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2007. "The Economic Lives of the Poor," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 141-168, Winter.
    6. Angus Deaton & Salman Zaidi, 2002. "Guidelines for Constructing Consumption Aggregates for Welfare Analysis," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14101.
    7. Christiaensen, Luc J. M. & Hoddinott, John & Bergeron, Gilles, 2000. "Comparing village characteristics derived from rapid appraisals and household surveys," FCND discussion papers 91, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Steven Ruggles & Misty Heggeness, 2008. "Intergenerational Coresidence in Developing Countries," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(2), pages 253-281.
    9. Udry, Christopher, 1990. "Credit Markets in Northern Nigeria: Credit as Insurance in a Rural Economy," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 4(3), pages 251-269, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Akresh, Richard & Edmonds, Eric V., 2010. "The Analytical Returns to Measuring a Detailed Household Roster," IZA Discussion Papers 4759, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    assets; Consumption; household definition; randomized experiment;

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