The Limitations of Household Surveys: Methodological Considerations in the Selection of the Unit of Analysis

One of the most widely used methods of socioeconomic data collection employed by international development and environmental conservation organizations is household surveys. The information gathered in such surveys is frequently used to support a variety of arguments, but the methodological aspects of these surveys are rarely discussed. The anthropological literature on households, however, has extensively shown the variability and complexity of the definition and conformation of households, questioning their adequacy as a unit of statistical analysis in survey research. This short book further explores this issue by analyzing the implications of household variability on the data collection procedures and the accuracy of survey measurements that use the household as a unit of analysis. Taking as a reference the composition of households in three indigenous communities located in the Peruvian rainforest, this book illustrates how the high variability of households decreases the value of household surveys, providing methodological insights and practical considerations to take into account when defining the unit of analysis in socioeconomic studies that involve the use of surveys.

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