From Design to Practice: How can large-scale household surveys better represent the complexities of the social units under investigation?

Antoinette Kriel, Sara Randall, Ernestina Coast, B. de Clercq


The way in which ‘the household’ is defined and operationalised in surveys and census data collection has long been criticised as unable to adequately capture the complexities of the social units within which people live. In a South African national survey on household wealth (HWS) a definition of the household was used to rep-resent the ways in which South African households arrange themselves financially. Here we report on a qualitative study in which 36 households originally included in the HWS were re-interviewed to collect detailed data on household financial links and dependencies. Households with more complex structures, which represent the majority of household types in South Africa, were very poorly represented, and possible reasons for this are explored. We analyse and discuss the HWS research process in the light of the findings of this study, and propose ways to improve large-scale survey design and data collection, drawing on perspectives from multiple disciplines. 


quantitative household survey concepts; organisational and structural complexity; representativeness

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2013.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help