Back to browse results
Measuring under-5 mortality and fertility through mobile phone surveys: an assessment of selection bias in 34 low-income and middle-income countries
Authors: David A Sánchez-Páez, Bruno Masquelier, Ashira Menashe-Oren, Ololade Julius Baruwa, and Georges Reniers
Source: BMJ Open, Volume 13, issue 11; DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-071791
Topic(s): Children under five
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: NOV 2023
Abstract: Objectives This study aims to assess sample selection bias in mobile phone survey estimates of fertility and under-5 mortality.Design With data from the Demographic and Health Surveys, we use logistic regressions to identify sociodemographic correlates of mobile phone ownership and access, and Poisson regressions to estimate the association between mobile phone ownership (or access) and fertility and under-5 mortality estimates. We evaluate the potential reasons why estimates by mobile phone ownership differ using a set of behavioural characteristics.Setting 34 low-income and middle-income countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.Participants 534 536?women between the ages of 15 and 49.Outcome measures Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) and total fertility rate (TFR).Results Mobile phone ownership ranges from 23.6% in Burundi to 96.7% in Armenia. The median TFR ratio and U5MR ratio between the non-owners and the owners of a mobile phone are 1.48 and 1.29, respectively. Fertility and mortality rates would be biased downwards if estimates are only based on women who own or have access to mobile phones. Estimates of U5MR can be adjusted through poststratification using age, educational level, area of residence, wealth and marital status as weights. However, estimates of TFR remain biased even after adjusting for these covariates. This difference is associated with behavioural factors (eg, contraceptive use) that are not captured by the poststratification variables, but for which there are also differences between mobile phone owners and non-owners.Conclusions Mobile phone surveys need to collect data on sociodemographic background characteristics to be able to weight and adjust mortality estimates ex post facto. Fertility estimates from mobile phone surveys will be biased unless further research uncovers the mechanisms driving the bias.Data are available in a public, open access repository. The data used in this study are publicly available. It can be found on the DHS Programme website (