The Townsend Thai Project

Baseline Survey ("The Big Survey")

In this Photo:

Fishermen off Koh-Chang, Thailand's second largest island. Photo by Chjab.

The Townsend Thai project began in 1997 with a relatively large cross sectional survey. It was fielded in May, prior to the economic/financial crisis which began with the devaluation of the Thai baht in July. The purpose was to obtain reliable information on the existence and use of informal and formal financial mechanisms and institutions, as well as to acquire retrospective information to help assess the impact of high growth with increasing inequality and uneven financial deepening.

The survey included separate instruments for households, village headmen (considered key informants), local financial institutions, and joint-liability BAAC groups. Approximately 23% of the interviewed households were also running some kind of business. There are also direct, environmental measurements of the local village environment. Soil samples were lifted and analyzed, surveys were administered with a separate soil questionnaire, and plot photos were taken. Finally, there are overhead air photos of each of the survey villages.

Sample Design

Two separate regions were deliberately chosen, the more highly developed Central Region located near Bangkok and the poorer semi-arid Northeast. Four provinces (changwats) were chosen in total, two in the Central region -- Lop Buri and Chachoengsao -- and two in the Northeast-- Sisaket and Buriram. These particular provinces were chosen as each one contained one county (amphoe) that had been sampled every year of the Thai Household Socio-Economic Survey (SES), thus providing benchmark or comparative information. The two regions, the Central and Northeast regions, can also be ranked from relatively wealthy to relatively poor not only by wealth and income, but also by soil moisture, soil chemistry, and other environmental characteristics.

Within each of the four provinces, 12 tambons were selected at random using stratification based on a correspondence analysis of satellite imagery; the latter are part of the Geographic Information System (GIS). Within each tambon, four villages were selected for the sample entirely at random. Thus there are in total l92 villages in the 48 tambons of the four changwats.

Details on sample selection and administration of the survey for each of the various instruments are contained in this part of the site. For example, for the first year of the survey (which was the largest in terms of data collection) the information gathered includes interviews with 2,880 households, 262 BAAC groups, 161 village financial institutions, and l92 key informants. There are also soil samples from 1,920 individual plots with an accompanying questionnaire. For each plot there are five photos. The project has also collected aerial photos of each surveyed village.

Collection & Processing Notes

Instruments were designed by Robert Townsend, Anna Paulson, and Tae Jeong Lee in Chicago with the aim of verifying current theories on the development of enterprise. Summaries of theoretical articles were prepared with a list of variables suggested by the theory appended at the end. Questionnaires from other surveys were also utilized, for example questions from the surveys of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the RAND Corporation. Preliminary versions of the instruments were translated into Thai and then extensively pretested in the field by the Thai Family Research Project. Questions that were difficult to answer or that required excessive time to answer were dropped. Not infrequently five to six versions of the survey questions were necessary before a suitable one was settled on.

Enumerators were hired from Ratchapak, Chulalong Korn, Thamasat Universities and other universities in Thailand. Formal training sessions were held. Residual unclear questions or ambiguous instructions led to final revisions of the instruments as well as to manuals and codebooks.

Data were collected by 12 teams of 14 enumerators each. The bulk of the team consisted of 11 enumerators who did the interviews for the various instruments, households, and BAAC key village institutions. The completed questionnaires were read over by both a field editor and team supervisor. Errors or missing information triggered re-interviews. Open ended Thai language responses were translated to English, and all responses were double blind entered in Bangkok on an ISSA-LAN system designed by a consultant from RAND.

Each team also contained an individual who dug the soil sample, took the plot photos, and completed the soil interview, occasionally with the help of other enumerators. The soil samples were then shipped to Bangkok for analysis.


Initial Household Survey, 1997 (English)

Initial Key Informant Survey, 1997 (English)

Initial Institutional Survey, 1997 (English)

Initial BAAC Survey, 1997 (English)

Data Summaries

"Data Summary for 1997 Household Survey," Adriana de la Huerta (2009).

"Data Summary for 1997 Key Informant Survey: Growth, Inequality, and Organizational Design," Liang Feng (2009).

"Founding and Membership of Local Financial Institutions in Semi-Urban and Rural Thailand," Joseph Kaboski and Robert Townsend (1999).

"Lending Services of Local Financial Institutions in Semi-Urban and Rural Thailand," Joseph Kaboski and Robert Townsend (1999).

"Savings Services of Local Financial Institutions in Semi-Urban and Rural Thailand," Joseph Kaboski and Robert Townsend (1999).