Family Life Surveys in Developing Countries

Recently I’m designing my own survey for my Uganda project this summer, which led me to multiple resources of large-scale household surveys in developing countries. Professor Duncan Thomas has some useful links to BREAD (Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development) and to RAND family surveys on his personal website. It’s a great place to start such research. I have found the following sources particularly helpful:

Another source is International Household Survey Network (IHSN) website. They offer a catalog of household surveys, many of which are of particular focus. A particularly nice feature of this website is that it guides you through the sample design, questionnaires, data collection and processing, and the technical information of each survey.

1. Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS). Available through RAND. It’s a large-scale longitudinal survey consisting of four waves from 1993 to 2008. Duncan Thomas at our department was one of the main investigators. It has comprehensive and proves to be the most useful for my purpose. Book 3A and 3B are especially helpful for designing individual-specific questions. They also have questions about trust and informal lending in the newer surveys.

2. Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS). Data are freely downloadable. Many of the survey questions are adopted from IFLS.

3. Household Survey to Conduct Micro-Credit Impact Studies-Bangladesh: research efforts by World Bank. This was designed to evaluate the impact of Grameen Bank so contained a rich set of questions about borrowing and lending.

4. Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS), by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). You need to register to download the data, and you can download up to ten files for free after registration. This survey has comprehensive data on food prices. I recommend you to read this paper (forthcoming in American Journal of Agricultural Economics) written by my professor Marc Bellemare and his coauthors on food volatility and farmer welfare using this data.

5. Chinese Income Household Project (CHIP). This is a joint research effort by multiple Chinese researchers and international organizations. A brief overview is here. The first three waves (1988, 1995, 2002) are also downloadable from this website.  The 2007 wave is not available online, but is available for request here. Note that the data are not longitudinal. Also, be careful with identifiers for different sub datasets when you merge them. For example, in children’s dataset they numbered children in a particular household instead of their member codes in the whole family. To create a unique identifier for merging purposes, I concatenated the household id and person code, creating a unique string variable for each individual. There are about 10 duplicates after this treatment, and I simply dropped those problematic ones.

6. China Health and Nutrition Survey. Downloadable at UNC website. This is probably one of the most organized and widely cited surveys carried out in China. It is an ocean of data. Make sure you know what you want before you dive into this ocean.

7. China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey. Recent data collected from Gansu and Zhejiang in China to investigate elderly health in China. Only pilot survey for now, but they are planning to launch a nationwide survey this year. You have to register at their website in order to download any data, and they are fairly efficient.

8. World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS). Thanks Xudong for pointing out this important source. They have a data finder which directs you to the most relevant data for your purpose. In the Uganda case, it happens to be the Uganda Household Survey 09/10, which is also available from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

9. Household datasets for development economic research, by RAND economist Sebastian Bauhoff. Comprehensive list of sources in multiple countries and regions. Short descriptions available.

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5 thoughts on “Family Life Surveys in Developing Countries

    • I want to investigate how households make healthcare related decisions (go to hospital or self treatment, whether or not to have health insurance, etc), and I’m also interested in informal credit among family and friends. I encountered the LSMS surveys a little while ago but didn’t look at them closely. I just found they have a Uganda survey and it seems very helpful for my purpose. Thanks for pointing out this resource!

  1. One of my classmates is currently doing field research on health issues in Tanzania. Can you leave me your work email address so I may send you her link?

  2. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this website. I am hoping to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  3. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you ought to write more about this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people don’t speak about these topics. To the next! All the best!!

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