Collecting Survey Data During Armed Conflict

Publication Abstract

Axinn, William G., Dirgha J. Ghimire, and Nathalie E. Williams. 2012. "Collecting Survey Data During Armed Conflict." Journal of Official Statistics 28(2):153-171.

Surveys provide crucial information about the social consequences of armed conflict, but armed conflict can shape surveys in ways that limit their value. We use longitudinal survey data from throughout the recent armed conflict in Nepal to investigate the relationship between armed conflict events and survey response. The Chitwan Valley Family Study (CVFS) provides a rare window into survey data collection through intense armed conflict. The CVFS data reveal that with operational strategies tailored to the specific conflict, duration of the panel study is the main determinant of attrition from the study, just as in most longitudinal studies outside of conflict settings. Though minor relative to duration, different dimensions of armed conflict can affect survey response in opposing directions, with bombings in the local area reducing response rates but nationwide political events increasing response rates. This important finding demonstrates that survey data quality may be affected differently by various dimensions of armed conflict. Overall, CVFS response rates remained exceptionally high throughout the conflict. We use the CVFS experience to identify principles likely to produce higher quality surveys during periods of generalized violence and instability.

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PMCID: PMC3571111