Longitudinal Aging Study in India: Vision, Design, Implementation, and Some Early Results
India is poised to experience a dramatic rise in its aging population in coming decades, yet comprehensive research and effective policy to confront this transition are lacking. According to projections constructed by the United Nations Population Division, the share of Indians aged 60 and over will increase from 8% today to 19% by 2050 (representing 323 million people, more than the entire US population in 2011). This demographic shift will pose significant challenges. India’s traditional reliance on private family networks to provide older people with care, companionship, and financial support will be stressed not only by the increasing number of aging Indians who rely on it, but also by changing household dynamics and patterns of spatial mobility among younger family members. The Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI) is intended to inform the design and expansion of a new generation of institutions – public and private – for the care and support of India’s population of older people by providing comprehensive data to the scientific and policy community. LASI is an evidence base for analyzing the (1) health, (2) economic and financial resources, and (3) living arrangements and social connections of older Indians. It enhances opportunities for cross-national analysis by adding India to the growing number of countries with harmonized data on their older populations. LASI surveys will be carried out every two years, providing longitudinal data to support research and policy development. This paper provides an overview of the conception and content of the 2010 LASI pilot survey that was conducted in four states: Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Kerala. We highlight key aspects of the field work, such as response rates and interview duration, and discuss the breadth and quality of the economic, health, and social data collected. We pay close attention to the cultural and geographic diversity LASI is able to capture, and bring to light interesting patterns in, and relationships among, measures of health, social connectedness, labor force participation, and hardship among the elderly.
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