Since it is inhumanly hot in this region during summers, all businesses and schools shut down during the afternoon. Streets are deserted at this time and no one ventures out. This means surveys can only be done in the evening. The initial idea was to do 4 households per student per evening (6pm - 10pm); an hour for every household.
The first evening the students called me in a panic. The neighbourhood they had gone to primarily comprised families of construction workers. Given the insanely difficult and depressing life those men had, it is not surprising that they came home every night and got dead drunk right away. I'm guessing that my students arrived just when their survey subjects had settled into inebriation and were enjoying this brief escape from their hard economic lives. Obviously that didn't result in a very fruitful question & answer session. Apparently the men also got belligerent if my students tried to bypass them and ask questions of their wives instead. Again, no surprise.
So the students decided that given the constraints of heat, drunken subjects, and working hours, that given these constraints they would conduct the survey from 6am - 10am instead, exactly twelve hours earlier. So far, this changed survey timing has gone very well and survey respondents are available and seem more receptive.
Since the students have changed the timing of their survey, things have been looking up. But problems persist. It is still tricky to get at household income for instance, or even household savings. It is important to know whether a fridge or a TV in the house is a sign of past or current affluence (say their business crashed and they moved into the slum for lack of affordable housing, but couldn't bear to part with their TV), and the trickiness of these questions is not always apparent when one is designing a survey questionnaire.
- In any case, the funny story of random sampling is as follows. I tried to impress upon the students the importance of random sampling (which is not simple and often not very random).
- The third neighbourhood at which these students arrived (Mangala sahi) appears to be a neighbourhood that is completely sold on my team and my project. They were won over by our community meeting with neighbourhood women, and loved how my female project manager spent a lot of time hanging out with them in their houses.
- Thing is, instead of being impartial survey respondents, now all the households in this neighbourhood want to be part of the survey. They are vying with each other for our survey team's attention. They want to be surveyed if their neighbours are surveyed. They don't want to feel left out. They already feel left out because not all our current project interventions target their group, and they feel neglected.
- Apparently, they really want to be surveyed.
- Now my students remember the bit about sampling methods so they're trying to pick houses at random. But they're not being allowed to do that. If they skip over a house for example, the household members call them and ask why their house is not being surveyed.
- I'm not sure what's going on. I would think that urban slum residents would be absolutely sick of being surveyed. All that the local governments seem to do is survey, survey, survey. Hundreds of surveys with data neatly tucked away in inaccessible files.
- But instead the urban slum residents are excitedly raising their hands to say "me!".
- Why? Could it be because of schemes such as Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), which has done extensive surveying (you can see a big yellow "RAY" written on most slum houses) for the purpose of providing affordable housing and various kinds of urban infrastructure? Could it be that the RAY survey indicates expected benefits, and slum residents also see our survey as one that's being done to determine eligibility for a subsidy or welfare schemes?
- In any case, the source of randomness of the surveys at least in Mangala sahi seems to the household. If someone from the household randomly drags you in and makes you subject them to a questionnaire, you do it. If a cup of tea is offered, you drink it. Then you try to escape to another part of the sahi and repeat the process.
- Sure I'm getting good data out of this. But what's also important is that these really sportive students of mine are getting a hearty laugh out of the reception they're receiving and getting some rare insights into field conditions. It's their summer internship after all, and they're making their way to an urban slum at 5:30am, 5 days a week. I'm glad they're squeezing some fun out of it.