Does response fatigue bias our understanding of rural livelihoods against women and youth?

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A recent policy focus on work opportunities for women and youth has driven a stream of studies on the livelihood strategies of these groups. Such analyses—crucial to designing effective poverty programs—often rely on lengthy, multi-topic household surveys. However, the quality of this underlying micro-data can be affected by response fatigue.

Labor modules in many surveys ask households’ primary respondents to report not only their own work activities, but those of each family member as well. Each reported work activity leads to a number of follow-up questions, gathering further information about these tasks or earnings. As the interview progresses and if a respondent gets tired (or bored) they might report fewer new activities in order to finish the interview faster.

In our recent discussion paper, Are We Done Yet? Response Fatigue and Rural Livelihoods, we examine this under-studied issue, finding that fatigue leads to underreporting of labor activities and contributions for those coming later in the question order. We also document that these effects are particularly strong for women and young people.

Photo credit: Tu Ma/ILRI

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