Asking retrospective questions in household surveys: evidence from Vietnam

Type Working Paper - The Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry
Title Asking retrospective questions in household surveys: evidence from Vietnam
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Asking retrospective questions about consumption and income has become an important part of household surveys and research in developing c ountries. While recall errors in retrospective data may generate estimation biases, the nature and the magnitude of the errors are largely unknown, especially in the context of developing countries. To fill this gap in the existing studies, we collect unique household data from Vietnam, a resurvey of respondents of the Vietnam Household Living Standards Survey (VH LSS) 2006. This combined data allows us to investigate a variety of errors associated w ith recall surveys and the size of consumption categories in questionnaires. Our empirical resu lts suggest that asking for total expenditure, rather than categorical expenditure, will cause fewe r recall errors in a retrospective survey. This is especially true in the case of purchased or bart ered consumption expenditure. Our results also suggest that while recall errors in the cat egorical sum of expenditure may exhibit mean-reverting patterns, retrospective total expenditu re data is less likely to involve problems of mean reverting measurement error.

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