Establishing panel studies in developing countries is difficult, owing to the absence of routine long-term surveillance systems found in developed countries. Consequently, these studies need particularly careful design to ensure that all necessary information is captured at the outset and that the data are maintained in a format suitable for longitudinal analysis. Under these circumstances, the pilot study becomes particularly important.
A pilot study for the Young Lives International Study of Childhood Poverty was carried out in South Africa during 2001 and 2002. The pilot included developing the various survey instruments, the approaches to fieldwork, a data entry system and an analysis package. Households containing 166 one-year-old children and 107 eight-year-olds were included.
The results of the pilot study are discussed in terms of the processes followed and the lessons learnt for running large panel studies in developing countries.