Implementing development surveys in developing countries can be challenging. Limited time, high survey costs, lack of information, and technical difficulties are some of the general constraints that plague development researchers. These constraints can hinder data collection and introduce selection bias into the survey data. We outline a multilevel sampling approach for use in areas where comprehensive information on geographical or household characteristics of local population are not readily available. Our approach includes the use of geographical information systems (GIS) for random spatial sampling and personal digital assistants (PDAs) with a global positioning system (GPS) for household systematic random sampling with random walk. Evidence from our field application in Malawi show that the multilevel sampling approach yields relevant survey data which is comparable to historical and nationally representative values; and supports rapid aggregation of preliminary results after the survey. This multilevel design is cost-effective in implementation and reduces bias avenues in the household selection. Overall, this multilevel sampling approach can be used to generate survey data in developing countries where detailed geographical information and household characteristics data are not readily available. It also presents ways of reducing bias in survey data given budget constraints.
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