Our Sample and Survey Methods

Methods and Sample

Young Lives is investigating the changing nature of children’s lives over 15 years.

We are following two groups of children: 2,000 children who were born in 2001-02 and 1,000 children who were born in 1994-95. These groups provide insights into every phase of childhood. The younger children are being tracked from infancy to their mid-teens, and the older children through into adulthood, when some will become parents themselves.

When this is matched with information gathered about their parents, we are able to reveal much about the intergenerational transfer of poverty, how families on the margins move in and out of poverty, and the policies that can make a concrete difference to their lives.

Our research is designed to cover three broad areas:

  • What are the factors that shape children’s lives to either increase or reduce poverty and its effects?
  • What effects does poverty have on children’s lives and experiences during childhood and into adulthood?
  • To what extent are current international and national policies effective in reducing childhood poverty in the study countries?

Study sites in Ethiopia

Our research sample households are found in both rural (60 per cent) and urban (40 per cent) areas located in 20 sentinel sites in the five major regions of Ethiopia (Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray, plus the capital city Addis Ababa).

The Young Lives team used multi-stage, purposive and random sampling to select the two cohorts of children. This methodology randomised households within a study site while the sites themselves were chosen on the basis of predetermined criteria. To ensure the sustainability of the study, and for re-surveying purposes, a number of well-defined sites were chosen. The sites were selected with a pro-poor bias and to ensure a balanced representation of Ethiopian regional diversity as well as rural/urban differences.

Our Combined Methods

We carry out multidisciplinary research using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, including a detailed survey of all the children, group work and participatory activities with a smaller group of some children, and policy and budget monitoring and analysis.

Household and child survey

A detailed, comprehensive survey of all the Young Lives children and their primary caregiver every three years. The surveys use a questionnaire for each child and his or her primary caregiver. We also talk to community leaders to understand more about local resources and services and changes happening in the local area. The questions cover material well-being, physical health, education and cognitive development, perceptions of wealth and general well-being, psychosocial health, time use and activities, risk and vulnerability, and social and political capital.

Longitudinal qualitative research

An in-depth look at particular aspects of children’s lives with a smaller sample of 100 children and their caregivers in five communities from each region. The sample also reflect an equal number of older and younger age groups (cohorts) and boys and girls. This involves group-based activities, individual interviews, and observational work exploring their local environment.

We talk to the important adults in each child’s life, including their main carer, teachers and local community figures, healthcare providers, kebele administration, NGO representatives and local association members both individually and in groups. The major focus of our qualitative research has been on children’s age-related expectations and risks, children’s perception of poverty, development programmes’ impact on children’s lives, community  and educational timeline, key transitions and time use (work, education, etc.), well-being (psychosocial and physical), intergenerational comparisons, and access to and quality of education, play and health services and facilities. See more on our qualitative longitudinal research on our international website

School survey

A school survey was introduced into Young Lives in 2010 in order to capture detailed information about children’s experiences of schooling. Two further rounds, in 2013 (for Grades 4 and 5), and 2016-17 (Grades 7 and 8) have taken place. They address two main research questions:

  • How do the relationships between poverty and child development manifest themselves and impact upon children's educational experiences and outcomes?
  • To what extent does children’s experience of school reinforce or compensate for disadvantage in terms of child development and poverty?

The survey allows us to link longitudinal information from the household survey with data on the schools attended by the Young Lives children. This provides policy-relevant information on the relationship between child development (and its determinants) and children’s experience of school, including access, quality and progression.

Download Young Lives Survey Design and Sampling in Ethiopia Factsheet (2014)

You can also read more about our research methods on our international website.