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Family Planning for Strangers: An Experiment on the Validity of Reported Contraceptive Use
Authors: Stecklov G., Weinreb A.A., and Sana M.
Source: PLOS ONE , 10(8):e0136972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136972
Topic(s): Contraception
Family planning
Country: Latin American/Caribbean
  Dominican Republic
Published: AUG 2015
Abstract: Sterilization levels reported in the Dominican Republic appear well above what we would normally expect given prevailing patterns in the region. We suspect that the use of strangers as interviewers-the normative approach in data collection in both developed and developing country settings-may be partly responsible for this result, and may underlie a long history of bias in family planning data. We present findings from a field experiment conducted in a Dominican town in 2010, where interviewer assignment was randomized by level of preexisting level of familiarity between interviewer and respondent. In our data, sterilization use is higher when the interviewer is an outsider, as opposed to someone known to the respondent or from the same community. In addition, high sterilization use is correlated with a propensity of respondents to present themselves in a positive light to interviewers. These results call into question the routine use of strangers and outsiders as interviewers in demographic and health surveys.