Birbhum, India

Our partner in India is the Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance (SHDS) which runs the Birbhum Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) site in West Bengal state in eastern India, bordering Bangladesh.

The Birbhum HDSS was started in 2008, in order to conduct research on demographic processes, population health, epidemiology, and healthcare.

The area covers 351 villages in four administrative blocks in rural areas of the Birbhum district of West Bengal. The HDSS currently follows nearly 55,000 individuals living in over 12,500 households. The population is approximately 65% Hindu and 35% Muslim.

Data collection team

The India team was led by Rajesh Kumar Rai working closely with Dr. Mary Shenk and the research team based at Pennsylvania State University and with training support from Fatema Tuz Zohora from icddr,b in Bangladesh. Piloting and data collection were conducted by a highly experienced team of SDHS enumerators.

Data collection

Survey data were collected in Birbhum via tablets using Open Data Kit (ODK). The data collection team interviewed over 1,000 women and over 600 of their husbands, and collected anthropometric measurements from over 3,000 men, women, and children. Approximately half of participants were Muslim and the other half Hindu, allowing us to make comparisons between responses from the two main religious groups in Birbhum.

Rajesh Kumar Rai and Fatema Tuz Zohora led the collection of 16 focus group discussions aimed at adding depth to our understanding of topics covered by the survey including religious practices, reproductive decision making, and childcare.

What happens next?

We are in the process of cleaning survey data and translating focus groups and beginning work on our first publications. We anticipate a series of papers, some qualitative and some quantitative, some comparative across all five data collection sites, and some focused just on Birbhum or comparing Birbhum to our site in Matlab, Bangladesh.

The Evolutionary Dynamics of Religion, Family Size, and Child Success

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