Using Global Positioning Systems in Household Surveys for Better Economics and Better Policy

Posted: 16 Jun 2008

See all articles by David J. McKenzie

David J. McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: Fall 2007

Abstract

Distance and location are the important determinants of many choices that economists study. Economists often rely on information about these variables that is self-reported by respondents in surveys, although information can sometimes be obtained from secondary sources. Self-reports are typically used for information on distance from households or community centers to roads, markets, schools, clinics, and other public services. There is growing evidence that self-reported distance is measured with error and that these errors are correlated with outcomes of interest. In contrast to self-reports, global positioning systems (GPS) can determine location within 15 m in most cases. The falling cost of GPS receivers makes it increasingly feasible for field surveys to use GPS to more accurately measure location and distance. This article reviews four ways that GPS can lead to better economics and better policy by clarifying policy externalities and spillovers, by improving the understanding of access to services, by improving the collection of household survey data, and by providing data for econometric modeling of the causal impact of policies. Several pitfalls and unresolved problems with using GPS in household surveys are also discussed.

Keywords: C81, O12, R20

Suggested Citation

McKenzie, David John, Using Global Positioning Systems in Household Surveys for Better Economics and Better Policy (Fall 2007). The World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 217-241, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1146337 or http://dx.doi.org/lkm009

David John McKenzie (Contact Author)

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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