Six things you need to know about how Prindex works

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Researcher Joseph Feyertag gives a behind-the-scenes look at Prindex, explaining how our survey is breaking new ground in measuring how secure people feel in their rights to stay in their home or on their land.

How many people around the world fear they will lose their home? That’s the question Prindex was set up to answer. In 2019, we’re expanding our dataset from 33 to 140 countries, representing 95% of the world’s population. By the end of the year, our polling partner Gallup will have interviewed at least 160,000 people using Prindex’s questions, as part of the Gallup World Poll.

But what matters isn’t just who we survey, how many people, or where, but how we ask the questions

As we wait for the results of our new round of surveys, we have reviewed other studies of ‘tenure security’ – how likely it is that a person will lose the right to stay in their home or property against their will – to see how Prindex’s results measure up. Here, I sum up what makes Prindex’s approach different, and why it matters.

1 / Putting facts to one side: feelings matter

Traditionally, tenure security has been measured by reviewing government records. But facts don’t tell us everything. Prindex asks people to tell us how secure they feel in the right to stay in their home, because feelings paint a fuller picture than facts alone. For instance, although a piece of paper might say that I own my home, a neighbour, relative, company, or government official might disagree.

What’s more, our feelings influence our behaviour. If I think I could be evicted tomorrow from my flat, I am less likely to look after it. If a farmer fears their land could be seized, they will be less likely to invest in looking after the land. Understanding how secure people feel in their right to stay on their land or in their home helps us to understand how property rights and other policy issues – like deforestation or gender inequality – overlap.

2 / Getting the question right

The question itself is, of course, crucial. We ask people how likely they think it is that they will lose their home against their will in the next five years. Other surveys might ask how much a person fears losing their property.

It’s a subtle difference, but one that can make a big difference to our results. Someone living in an informal slum settlement or renting an apartment could be more likely to move home on a regular basis. So they might consider the risk of losing their home to be high but, as a result of moving often, may be less fearful of it happening.

3 / Knowing the options

How we frame the answers matters, too. In answer to the question asking how likely a person thinks it is that they will be forced to leave their home, respondents can choose from one of four options: “very likely”, “somewhat likely”, “unlikely” and “very unlikely”. Other surveys might have present anything from five possible responses (including a neutral option, such as “neither”), to a simple “yes” or “no”.

We chose to give four possible responses because it allows for nuance: you might behave differently if you thought it was “very unlikely” that you would lose your home than you would if you thought it was “unlikely”. It also produces a clear picture overall, classing everyone as either “secure” or “insecure”.

4 / Focusing on representation

For each country we survey, we will ensure our survey sample is nationally representative across regions and groups: from renters to homeowners, young people to older people, those living in the countryside to the city, farmers to business owners, and women and men. Few other surveys consider the whole population, concentrating instead on specific groups or regions.

5 / Making women’s voices heard

Reflecting women’s voices equally alongside those of men is crucial for Prindex and makes our survey unique from others. We achieve this through randomisation: when we knock on a door, we ask for a list of all the residents over 18, and pick one at random. This ensures we hear from both men and women.

Other surveys often will identify the ‘most knowledgeable’ member of the household, or the head of household, meaning men’s perspectives dominate. Our data so far, within certain countries, reveals big differences in how much women and men fear losing their home.

6 / Consistency is everything

The only way to track and compare how much people fear losing their homes from country to country is to make sure we are consistent. Other approaches are valid, but as we’ve seen, small differences in how we ask a question can have a big impact.

Prindex isn’t designed to replace existing surveys or sources of data, such as in-depth national or regional surveys, administrative data or multipurpose household surveys. Rather, our data is a starting point for further localised research into tenure security and its causes and acts as an independent check to see how citizens’ feelings line up with other data. Together, through better understanding why people fear losing their home, we can create a strong foundation for land and property policies fit for our time.


For an in-depth comparison of Prindex with other studies of perceptions of tenure security, read our new briefing 'Reviewing existing evidence of perceived tenure security: why consistency matters'.

Find out more about our methodology at prindex.net/data/methodology

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