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The household survey as a tool for policy change: lessons from the Jamaican Survey of Living Conditions.
Washington, D.C., World Bank, 1991. viii, 48 p. (Living Standards Measurement Study [LSMS] Working Paper No. 80)The Jamaican Survey of Living conditions (SLC), which is scheduled as a semiannual survey, was initiated during 1988/89 to monitor the Human Resources Program (HRDP). The multisectoral aim was to provide household data for analysis of the effects of government policies on living conditions of the population. As a Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS, SLC was a small, but in-depth instrument with a narrow focus and emphasis on policy impact, i.e., capable of determining who the poor are and their responses to policy changes. LSMS surveys are flexible and can be adapted to the policy issues of importance in any country. Results can be provided quickly. The SLC was a household questionnaire, which eliminated data available from the LSMS; the SLC sample used a random 33% of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) sample and followed the LFS by a month. Between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the SLC, a training and transfer program was begun to gradually assure Jamaican staff sustainability. A key feature of skills transfer was a tutorial approach. Discussion focused on the nature of the survey, similarities to the LSMS, the adaptations made to the SLC, and the history of the development of the survey. The survey provided information on the distribution of welfare and sectoral data on health, education, and nutrition. Strategic choices were made which account for SLC's success; the lessons learned were thought to be of value to other countries involved in living standards research and policy directives. The concreteness of purpose was a strategy which appealed to both policy makers and technicians. Timeliness was traded with quality of data, which contributed to immediate policy relevance, enhanced the training functions, and allowed for refinements. The disadvantages were that good results could block further detailed work; quality issues might be compromised. Other strategies discussed were the adaptation to the existing environment, gradual training of staff, the close cooperation between several agencies, multiple analysis prospects for government staff and academics, and the extensive use of World Bank staff in the initial effort. Costs to Jamaica were low compared to other LSMS surveys, but World Bank costs were high in staff time and travel. The cost of replication for other countries will depend on existing infrastructure, sample size, and local prices.