The Townsend Thai Project

Data Overview

In this Photo:

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

The initial purpose of this project was to evaluate the role of informal institutions such as the family and local networks in helping to support the welfare and well-being of individuals in semi-urban and rural areas of Thailand. Risk, and the potentially adverse and direct consequences of household- and firm-specific shocks, is a key part of the project. The mediating role of the family, as well as social and economic networks in the mobilization of savings and allocation of credit was also deemed essential. These networks are not viewed in isolation but rather they are viewed as part of the larger village, regional, and national level financial system. Indeed, the project has both micro and macro aspects. It seeks to evaluate informal and formal financial institutions and markets and to construct and evaluate macro models of growth, fluctuations, and crisis. The macro models are then based on the measured micro-underpinnings.

Aware of heavy regional disparities, the initial survey was fielded in two distinct regions of the country: the industrialized and fertile Central region and the semi-arid and relatively poor Northeast. The survey included separate instruments for the households, village headmen as key informants, local financial institutions, and joint-liability BAAC groups. Direct measurement of the local village environment is also available. Soil samples were taken, administered with a separate soil questionnaire and plot photos. Finally, there are overhead air photos of each of the survey villages.

The devaluation of the Thai baht in July l997 and the unexpected onset of the Asian Financial Crisis led to the realization that with the initial May benchmark survey, the project was positioned to track the impact of the crisis on households and businesses, and to understand the micro-underpinnings of the movement in the macro variables.

This led to the Annual Resurveys. These constitute at present a twelve-year household and business panel. In addition to the household instruments, there have been continued resurveys of headmen and village institutions, and in 2000, the BAAC groups. Starting in 2006, the Annual Surveys were also extended into urban areas.

In addition, and in accordance with the initial project design, an intensive Monthly Survey was initiated in August l998, taking place in a subset of villages from the original sample. The Monthly Survey continues to the present.