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An evaluation of truncated birth histories for the rapid measurement of fertility and child survival
Authors: Bruno Masquelier, Ashira Menashe-Oren & Georges Reniers
Source: Population Medicine, 21
Topic(s): Childhood mortality
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: JUL 2023
Abstract: Background: Full birth histories (FBHs) are a key tool for estimating fertility and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries, but they are lengthy to collect. This is not desirable, especially for rapid turnaround surveys that ought to be short (e.g., mobile phone surveys). To reduce the length of the interview, some surveys resort to truncated birth histories (TBHs), where questions are asked only on recent births. Methods: We used 32 Malaria Indicator Surveys that included TBHs from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Each set of TBHs was paired and compared to an overlapping set of FBHs (typically from a standard Demographic and Health Survey). We conducted a variety of data checks, including a comparison of the proportion of children reported in the reference period and a comparison of the fertility and mortality estimates. Results: Fertility and mortality estimates from TBHs are lower than those based on FBHs. These differences are driven by the omission of events and the displacement of births backward and out of the reference period. Conclusions: TBHs are prone to misreporting errors that will bias both fertility and mortality estimates. While we find a few significant associations between outcomes measured and interviewer’s characteristics, data quality markers correlate more consistently with respondent attributes, suggesting that truncation creates confusion among mothers being interviewed. Rigorous data quality checks should be put in place when collecting data through this instrument in future surveys.