30 Mar 2016

Model Datasets to the Rescue

Have you ever wanted to start immediately working on a DHS dataset, but didn’t have a research topic? Or didn’t want to take the time to register for access? Well, The DHS Program now has the cure for all your data analysis woes!

The DHS Program has created model datasets so users can become familiar with datasets without having to register for access. These datasets have been created strictly for practice and do not represent any country’s actual data. Model datasets are based on the DHS 6 Questionnaire and Recode. They include data on all standard survey characteristics, as well as data on domestic violence, female genital cutting, adult and maternal mortality, and child labor.

You might be thinking, how can I use these datasets? Model datasets can be used for many different purposes, including:

  • Replicating standard final report tables
  • Practicing calculating complex indicators
  • Teaching statistical concepts and procedures

Team members from Nigeria participating in the 2016 Regional DHS/MIS Malaria Analysis Workshop

Recently, the model datasets were used in the 2016 Regional DHS/MIS Malaria Analysis Workshops in Uganda and Senegal. Since participants attending the workshop came from different countries with different DHS/MIS datasets, the curriculum and workshop exercises were standardized using the model datasets. After going through the model dataset examples, participants then worked with their country’s specific data to match numbers in the final report. This was a great way for facilitators to make sure everyone was mastering the skill before participants worked on their own country’s data.

Model datasets have already had a starring role in our sampling and weighting tutorial videos. Future videos will also feature the model datasets, allowing users to follow along with the examples in the tutorial with their own statistical program.

Visit the Model Datasets page on The DHS Program website for more information. Users can pick and choose which data files to download, as well as download the full set of final report tables and sampling errors to check their work. Again, unlike datasets for specific surveys, users do not need to register in order to gain access.

If you have recently used the model datasets we want to hear from you! Comment below or email modeldatasets@dhsprogram.com to share your experiences with the model datasets or how you plan on using them in the future. You can also post questions about the model datasets on the User Forum.

22 Mar 2016

A Closer Look at Unmet Need in Ghana

View from Elmina Castle in Cape Coast Ghana. © Cameron Taylor/ICF International

For over 30 years, data from DHS surveys have been widely used to assess use of family planning, and monitor family planning programs around the world. DHS data are the gold standard for quality, but nuanced information related to fertility intentions and family planning use is often challenging to collect in a large-scale quantitative survey. Information from in-depth interviews with DHS respondents can help us understand and interpret survey results.

QRS20DHS recently published a follow-up study to the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS). The study reflects an evolving model of qualitative and mixed-methods research within The DHS Program: projects linked to the DHS survey process itself, rather than fielded separately. At the heart of the study was the opportunity to speak with a sub-sample of DHS respondents a few weeks after their DHS interview, which gives us some insight on data quality and reliability when we re-ask a few of the same questions.

But the real purpose of the study was to help us make sense of quantitative data. What does it mean when women say that they want to delay or space their births but that they are not using family planning? Programmatically, there is an important distinction between women who may be classified as having an unmet need for family planning versus women who are willing and ready to contracept. The reasons why a country with a relatively strong family planning program such as Ghana would have one of the continent’s highest levels of unmet need are not something we can always understand very well through the existing questions asked in large-scale surveys. A small number of systematically planned in-depth interviews can help us understand the individual narratives behind survey answers that give rise to the classification of unmet need.

Approximate locations of the final 13 clusters selected for the follow up study. Cluster locations have been randomly displaced to ensure respondent confidentiality.

Approximate locations of the final 13 clusters selected for the follow up study. Cluster locations have been randomly displaced to ensure respondent confidentiality.

Following up with DHS survey respondents was ethically and logistically complicated. We had to first get women’s consent during the initial interview for re-contact, use a computer program to select eligible women, and then try to re-identify women using an approximate address, structure number, name of head of household, and relationship to head of household. Once we approached original respondents we then had to start the process of obtaining consent and scheduling an interview anew. Fieldwork was conducted by the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Legon. Ghana Statistical Services, which implemented the GDHS, helped ISSER interviewers re-locate original households and randomly audited the follow-up interviews for data quality.

We re-asked some of the same questions posed by the GDHS and then inquired about any discrepancies. Did the respondent think that there was an error in transcription, or had her circumstances changed in the interim period between surveys?

Perceived cost and access barriers to contraception among follow-up respondents who were not using a modern method of family planning.

Perceived cost and access barriers to contraception among follow-up respondents who were not using a modern method of family planning.

Key findings from the study include: women seem to underreport traditional method use, intentional abstinence as a method of family planning is not well-captured by our surveys, husbands and partners have both a positive and a negative influence on use, women are most concerned about menstrual irregularities caused by hormonal methods, and opposition to modern methods among non-users is stronger than apparent from survey data.

You can download the full study, “Understanding Unmet Need in Ghana: Results from a Follow-up Study to the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey” from The DHS Program website.

08 Mar 2016

On International Women’s Day: A Pledge for Accountability

International Women’s Day, March 8, never fails to give me pause: while it provides a time and space to celebrate women’s achievements and evaluate progress toward attaining gender equality, it also makes me wonder when we – all of humanity – will no longer need to set aside a special day to focus attention on fully half of humanity. It is disappointing that despite the nearly half century since the publication of Ester Boserup’s 1970 game changing Women’s Role in Economic Development which documented women’s critical and largely ignored role in agriculture, we are still only “pledging for parity” and are nowhere near achieving it.  Boserup’s work showed that in many economies women did half or more of agricultural work while also contributing significantly to trade.

Spousal Violence and HIV: Exploring the linkages in five sub-Saharan African countries

For me, Boserup’s work has special meaning. Not only did her insights change the way I looked at women’s role in development, but also because 22 years ago it indirectly gave rise to my very first job in the United States. In 1993, I joined DHS as its first and only Women-in-Development Analyst. The job title sounds archaic now, but back then the change from a focus on women’s roles in development to the role of gender in providing the context and constraints for women’s full participation in development was just beginning. By the end of the 1990s, the shift from WID to GAD (Gender and Development) was complete and my title eventually reflected this change.

…for us at The DHS Program, the 2016 International Women’s Day call of ‘Pledge for Parity’ translates into a pledge to continue providing the highest quality data and analysis to hold the world accountable for the continuing gap in the achievement of gender equality.

Women's Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment since 2000

As the newly minted DHS WID analyst, I was asked to develop a module of survey questions that could be included in a DHS and would provide information on gender relations in the household and the context of women’s lives. At that time, almost 10 years after the DHS project was initiated, the DHS woman’s questionnaire, designed primarily to measure key demographic and health indicators, had almost no information on women’s status. The only information related to women’s status was education, age at first marriage, and employment. Thus in developing a women’s status module, I had a pretty clean slate to work with. The module that was finally developed and piloted as part of the 1995 Egypt DHS covered many aspects of women’s status including household decision making, dowry payments, attitudes towards women’s roles and spousal violence, ownership and control of assets, freedom of movement, financial autonomy, and exposure to violence. Though never fielded again in its initial form, the module became the basis of DHS’s ongoing contributions to understanding the role of gender and women’s empowerment in the achievement of demographic and health goals.

Men and Contraception: Trends in Attitudes and Use

Today The DHS Program continues its 20+ year tradition of providing reliable and consistent data on women’s roles in the household, violence against women, and female genital cutting. The power of these data comes not only from the information they provide on women’s lives, but also from the fact that these data are collected alongside demographic, health and nutrition data for the same women. This holistic approach enables The DHS Program to go beyond just providing gender indicators to the world, to providing in-depth analyses that help highlight women’s contributions, constraints and gender inequities in the context of demographic change, health, and social and economic development. Thus for us at The DHS Program, the 2016 International Women’s Day call of “Pledge for Parity” translates into a pledge to continue providing the highest quality data and analysis to hold the world accountable for the continuing gap in the achievement of gender equality.


The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

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Anthropometry measurement (height and weight) is a core component of DHS surveys that is used to generate indicators on nutritional status. The Biomarker Questionnaire now includes questions on clothing and hairstyle interference on measurements for both women and children for improved interpretation.