The India Human Development Survey (IHDS), led by University of Maryland sociologists Sonalde Desai and Feinian Chen, together with partners Keera Allendorf from Indiana University, Amaresh Dubey from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Santanu Pramanik from the National Council on Applied Economic Research (NCAER), and Sharan Sharma from the University of Maryland, is a nationally representative, multi-topic panel survey of 41,554 households in 1503 villages and 971 urban neighborhoods across India. The survey is a joint project between UMD and NCAER, with two new partners collaborating for round 3, Indiana University and The Survey Research Center at Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The first round of interviews was completed in 2004-5; data are publicly available through ICPSR. A second round of IHDS reinterviewed most of these households in 2011-12 (N=42,152) and data for same can be found here. The research will continue with a third panel, scheduled to be in the field in 2021. IHDS is funded through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

"The survey is designed to be a premier public resource for researchers interested in studying dimensions of human development in India," said Sonalde Desai, the project’s principal investigator.

Each panel provides a multi-topic, multi-purpose source of data for international and Indian research on health, education, income, employment, gender, and social inequality – within the context of far-reaching changes since 2005. Panel data will allow better estimation of the influence of development on families and households than is presently possible. Excitingly, in addition to a variety of additional topics, IHDS 3 is moving from a paper version to a Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) survey. CAPI facilitates skip patterns, logic checks, and validations throughout the interview process resulting in a significant improvement in the quality of data collected.

The surveys permit a wide range of analyses; for example, there is good data on two major government programs initiated since 2005 – the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). NREGA was designed to guarantee work for the underemployed, but it has also introduced changes in the male / female wage gap. The health reforms under NRHM provide cash incentives for hospital deliveries, which may serve to reduce infant mortality. In addition, IHDS offers data on a generation of youth who were 8-11 years old in 2005, 14-17 in 2012, and 24-27 in 2021, thus permitting an examination of young adulthood in India. Panel analyses at the household and individual level create new opportunities to investigate the causes of gender inequalities in employment, education, and health.

Given the timing of the third panel, IHDS is in a unique position to provide data regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of this national emergency will not be felt equally by all parts of India’s population, and researchers, policy makers, and activists will be able to use this data to enhance their understanding of how women, rural households, and other at-risk groups are affected.  

Research conducted using IHDS data has highlighted the importance of regional disparities in health, education, income, and employment. Often, these large regional differences far outstripped individual level differences due to caste, class, and social origins. IHDS 1 and 2 data are freely available and have been analyzed by scholars around the world. With the additional 3rd panel, the IHDS team has created an invaluable tool for scholars, journalists, and activists for assessing the demographic, economic, and social transformations taking place in India over the past fifteen years and into the future.

Principal Investigator
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Project Sponsor
Eunice Kennedy Shriver - National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)