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Chronicles from the Field

The Townsend Thai Project · The MIT Press

by Robert M. Townsend Author · Sombat Sakunthasathien Author


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Lessons learned in the process of designing and implementing one of the longest-running panel data surveys in development economics.

Running since 1997 and continuing today, the Townsend Thai Project has tracked millions of observations about the economic activities of households and institutions in rural and urban Thailand. The project represents one of the most extensive datasets in the developing world. Chronicles from the Field offers an account of the design and implementation of this unique panel data survey. It tells the story not only of the origins and operations of the project but also of the challenges and rewards that come from a search to understand the process of a country's economic development.

The book explains the technical details of data collection and survey instruments but emphasizes the human side of the project, describing the culture shock felt by city-dwelling survey enumerators in rural villages, the "surprising, eye-opening, and inspiring" responses to survey questions, and the never-ending resourcefulness of the survey team. The text is supplemented by an epilogue on research findings and policy recommendations and an appendix that contains a list and abstracts of published and working papers, organized by topic, using data from the project.

Social and economic policies are too often skewed by political considerations. The Townsend Thai Project offers another basis for policy: accurate measurement based on thoroughly collected data. From this, a clear template emerges for understanding poverty and alleviating it.

Publication Details

The MIT Press
Publication Date:
The MIT Press


  • Adobe PDF eBook 8.7 MB

Robert M. Townsend (Author)

Robert M. Townsend is Elizabeth & James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2012 he was awarded the Frisch Medal by the Econometric Society for his research on the village economies of Thailand, becoming the only two-time winner of this ...

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Sombat Sakunthasathien (Author)

Sombat Sakunthasathien is Director of the Thai Family Research Project. Rob Jordan is an award-winning journalist and writer.

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Chronicles from the Field
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