What lies beneath

Over at the new and refreshingly geeky (a compliment) Development Impact blog, Markus Goldstein discusses the problems with asking sensitive questions to different members of the household, and the benefits and problems associated with private interviews:

On another interview, we were interviewing a couple that had been married for something like 40 years. When we were doing the expenditure module with the man, he kept going over to interrupt the wife (who was in the midst of her own interview) to get information.   On one level this was annoying, since a goal of this expenditure module was to see how much they knew (without asking) about each other’s expenditure. On another level it was sweet.   So for this household, it seemed like having the spouse present would result in better quality answers if we were trying to get a complete picture of expenditure.

Researchers sometimes forget that most of the multitude of questions respondents face in a study are extremely private. Imagine if someone from your city, claiming to be associated with some distant, foreign university, came to your door and started asking you about your detailed household expenditure, or your spouse about their sexual history?

A few weeks into the start of the baseline survey for our land rights project we got a call from one of our enumerators, who was currently being threatened with a thumping by a large and angry respondent, who had come home to find his wife being asked detailed questions about their land holdings.

One of our field managers dashed off to the house to quell the tension, at which point the respondent told them to meet him in a more secluded location at a later date. During that second meeting, he revealed that he actually owner several more parcels of land that he hadn’t (and presumably wasn’t planning to) mention to his wife.

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