Matlab, Bangladesh

Our partner in Bangladesh is icddr,b (formerly the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh) which has operated a Health and Demographic Surveillance (HDSS) site in Matlab, Bangladesh since the late 1960s making it one of the longest running such sites in the world.

The area currently covers 142 villages in seven administrative blocks in Matlab with a population of over 230,000 residents. The area provides high quality data for demographic and health research, allowing researchers to access existing data but also conduct their own research from a known sampling frame.

The study area is well-known for its quasi-experimental maternal and child health and family planning programs which operate in half of the surveillance area while the other half serves as a comparison area for understanding the impacts of interventions on fertility, mortality, and health (see Alam et al. 2017 for further details). Approximately 88% of the local population is Muslim, and the remainder is Hindu; all are ethnic Bengalis. In this fieldsite we collaborate closely with Dr. Nurul Alam of icddr,b and members of the Matlab community.

Data collection team

The Bangladesh team was led by Dr. Nurul Alam of the icddr,b working closely with Dr. Mary Shenk and the research team based at Pennsylvania State University. Piloting and data collection were conducted by a team of 10 enumerators guided by project manager Fatema Tuz Zohora with help from Mohammad Shoriful Islam, and methodological guidance from Mohammad Moinuddin Haider.

Data collection

In late 2021, the Bangladesh team conducted a preliminary round of focus group discussions aimed at more fully understanding local ideas about social support, childcare and religion in Matlab. The findings from these focus groups helped us refine and tweak our survey before beginning survey piloting. During piloting, the team of enumerators helped streamline our survey and correct any errors or translations before starting data collection formally in 2022. They survey data were collected on tablets using the  Open Data Kit (ODK) software.

The data collection team ultimately interviewed over 1,000 women and about 700 of their husbands, and collected anthropometric measurements from over 2,000 men, women, and children. Approximately half of participants were Muslim and the other half Hindu. This will allow us to make comparisons between responses from the two main religious groups in Matlab.

In late 2022 and early 2023, Fatema Tuz Zohora and Mary Shenk led the collection of 12 additional 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 currently cleaning and analyzing the data! We anticipate a series of papers, some qualitative and some quantitative, some comparative across all five data collection sites, and some focused just on Bangladesh or comparing Bangladesh to our site in Birbhum, India.

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

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