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Remembrances of Things Past: Test-Retest Reliability of Retrospective Migration Histories


  • James P. Smith


  • Duncan Thomas

    (University of California, Los Angeles)


Matched retrospective life history data collected from the same individuals in two waves of the Malaysian Family Life Survey provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the quality of long-term recall data in a rapidly changing developing country. Recall quality, measured by consistency of incidence and dating of moves reported twelve years apart, is higher among the better educated. Respondents better remember more salient moves, those linked with other important life events such as marriage, childbirth, or a job change and moves that lasted a long time. Migrations that dim in memory as time passes are typically shorter duration or local moves, often made while the respondent was young. Dating of moves is also significantly improved when linked with other salient events. Our findings suggest concrete and practical steps that can be followed to improve the quality of retrospective life histories collected in field surveys.

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  • James P. Smith & Duncan Thomas, 2004. "Remembrances of Things Past: Test-Retest Reliability of Retrospective Migration Histories," Labor and Demography 0403026, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0403026
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 37

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    1. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
    2. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    3. Bound, John, et al, 1994. "Evidence on the Validity of Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Labor Market Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 345-368, July.
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    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics

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