Understanding the Link between Children’s Living Arrangements and Children’s Vulnerability, Care, and Well-being: The Role of Household-based Surveys

Mona Mehta Steffen, Jeffrey D. Edmeades, Kerry L. D. MacQuarrie, Laurie DeRose, Florence Martin and Thomas W. Pullum

This DHS Occasional paper examines the role that household surveys – such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) – can play in increasing our understanding of the influence of living arrangements on children’s vulnerability, care, and well-being. Despite growing acknowledgement that family environment and living arrangements play an important role in child development and well-being, a lack of data has significantly hampered the ability of states and other actors to effectively monitor trends in family structures and living arrangements in many regions of the world. As large-scale, multinational household surveys that produce population-based data representative at the national and subnational levels, the DHS and the MICS are uniquely placed to address this information gap, although neither has been used to its full potential to explore questions about household structure and children’s vulnerability and well-being.

This paper makes the case for increased application of household surveys to answer such questions. The paper reviews the types of information collected by the DHS and MICS during the past two decades on both living arrangements and child outcomes, and highlights areas where these data could be more effectively used and the key information gaps that remain. The paper also introduces a draft of a forthcoming DHS module with questions about the vulnerability and well-being of children.

The paper was produced following the Second Round Table Meeting of Experts organised by BCN and ICF in February 2019, with support from USAID.