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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Journal of Development Economics
Title Do household definitions matter in survey design? Results from a randomized survey experiment in Mali
Volume 98
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
Page numbers 124-135
URL http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~lab823/beamandillon_HHdef.pdf
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 decreases household size and
significantly alters 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, though 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.

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