My name is Ernestina Coast, and I am one of the researchers involved in the households project. Together with my colleagues - Sara Randall and Tiziana Leone - I'd like to thank you for finding the time to take part in this online conference.
I'd like to introduce the research that we have been doing, and explain the motivation behind it.
The three of us are demographers who have not only done secondary analyses with household survey data collected by others, but also been involved in collecting household survey data ourselves.
As a result of our different experiences of working with household survey data, we began to think about what this thing called a "household" represents for people involved at different stages in the production of household survey data.
Why does this research matter?
We know how important household surveys are for the production of information for policy design and planning interventions in all countries. For example, more than half of the MDG indicators use data produced by household surveys.
However, virtually no attention is paid by commissioners, and consumers of data from household surveys to the issue of what the household unit used in the survey is, how it is defined, and what this definition might mean for the data available foranalysis, interpretation and, ultimately, policy planning.
To organise our thinking about the role of the definition of household in surveys we envisage a chain of production of household survey data, from survey commissioner, to designer, to respondent, to household survey data consumer.
We hypothesise that the concept of the household means different things to different people involved at different points along this chain. But, because the same vocabulary, household, is used, these ambiguities are usually invisible or even unknown.
It's probably worth highlighting what we do not set out to do with this research.
1.We do not set out to redefine the household. Given the heterogeneity of human societies it is unlikely and undesirable that one definition will fit all situations.
2.Nor do we propose that the household be abandoned in favour of the family. Most social science disciplines are clear that household and family are distinct,.
We have used several methods to understand how different people understand and use the concept of the household in surveys, including in-depth case studies, key informant interviews from all along the chain and document reviews.
If you want to find out more about the methods we used, please look at the resources included here in the conference site.
The purpose of this online conference is to get your reaction to our key findings.
Because we know that your time is limited,the three issues that we would particularly like to discuss during this online conference are:
Firstly, that survey designers and collectors impose a household definition that is often at odds with respondents' understanding of their lives
Secondly, that researchers who use household survey data rarely demonstrate evidence of having considered what a household is.
Finally, what are the best ways to communicate our findings to non-specialist users of household survey data?
If you would like to find out more, we have also included copies of full papers that we have written, but we don't expect you to read them as part of this conference.
We're looking forward to your reactions to our findings, and to discussing our work with you online over the course of this online conference.