Our national surveys are based on faulty sampling

Source: The post is based on the article “Our national surveys are based on faulty sampling” published in “Indian Express” on 7th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for various sectors

News: The article discusses the importance of data quality in surveys that inform policy decisions in India.

Policymakers in India typically rely on sample surveys of households to assess previous policies or to frame new ones.

However, the data quality related to the National Sample Survey (NSS), National Family Health Survey (NFHS), and Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) is inadequate due to outdated sampling frames and archaic survey mechanisms.

What are the Issues associated with the present surveys?

Surveys use outdated sampling frames and hence, are not representative

The surveys are said to grossly and systematically underestimate India’s progress and development, leading to misleading estimates.

For example, nearly all major surveys in India conducted post-2011 have overestimated the proportion of the rural population significantly. They have relied on 2011 for the sampling frame.

There is also a problem with the response rate, which is systematically correlated with wealth levels. The response rate falls with growth in income and wealth of households. No adjustment has been made for this error in the surveys.

If the polices are framed based on these estimates, they are not going to yield the desired results. This will result in a continuous gap between ground realities and survey estimates.

What should be done?

Statistical reforms should not merely focus on the availability, frequency, and largeness of data, but greater emphasis should be placed on data quality.

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