FAQ

Listed below are answers to frequently asked questions on the MICS programme. The information provided ranges from a general description of what MICS is and where the programme operates, to a list of the types of indicators and areas covered by MICS surveys, and the measures taken to ensure that data is accurately collected.

What is MICS?

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) is an international household survey programme developed by UNICEF in the 1990s. Since then, close to 300 surveys have been carried out in over 100 countries. The fifth round of MICS included 50 surveys in low, middle and high income countries.

 

What information is collected in MICS?

MICS is designed to collect statistically sound, internationally comparable estimates of about 130 indicators to assess the situation of children, women and men in the areas of health, education, and child protection among many others, including 21 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators. MICS continues to play an essential role in the collection of high-quality data for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

What are the topics and indicators covered by MICS?

MICS covers topics and indicators related to children’s well-being, women, and households, ranging from health and education to child protection and water and sanitation. 

To learn more about the topics covered in MICS and the complete list of indicators, visit the Tools pages.

 

Do MICS surveys collect and/or release GIS data?

The MICS Programme does not include GIS data collection on a standard basis, but some MICS surveys do include GIS data collection (see guidance). Typically, this is carried out for a specific purpose, such as when a survey collects data for the anemia biomarker, which requires altitude information. However, this does not mean that detailed spatial analysis is impossible -- even for surveys that have not carried out GIS data collection. The majority of Statistical Offices participating in the MICS Programme already have digitized maps of cluster locations through their Census cartography. The MICS Programme therefore advises researchers interested in spatial analysis to contact the individual Statistical Offices or other implementing agencies with requests. Contact details are typically in final reports and with the final datasets. One needs the “key” that matches the cluster numbers in the datasets with the enumeration areas in the Census maps. Additionally, one must be granted access to Census maps and, for any map presentation, must incorporate a random offset of the cluster location.

 

Why does MICS only collect data on children under 5 years of age but not on children of all ages?

Children under age five are the focal point of many programmatic interventions in areas of interest to governments, UNICEF and other partners. However, in addition to the questionnaire for children under five, MICS also collects data on children age five or above through the household questionnaire (such as education, child labour and child discipline) as well as the questionnaire for individual women and men (through retrospective questions such as age at marriage or early childbearing).

 

How long does MICS fieldwork typically last?

This depends on the sample size of each survey, as well as the number of fieldworkers and the number of households that are completed per day. On average, fieldwork is completed in 2 to 4 months in most MICS surveys.

 

What measures does MICS take to ensure the data are collected accurately?

The data collection teams include a supervisor, a field editor, a measurer, and varying numbers of female and male interviewers depending on the overall workload. No interviewer can collect any information alone i.e. they must all go as a team to collect data with the supervisor checking the map to ensure they are approaching the correctly selected household and the editor checking their work immediately upon completion. The information from the individual questionnaire is also cross referenced to other questionnaires completed in that household for accuracy.

One important element of MICS surveys is the presence of a field editor within the teams to ensure any potentially incorrect responses are investigated and resolved while the survey teams are still in the field.

The field supervisors monitor the survey teams during the entire fieldwork process and observe interviews to ensure the MICS guidelines are followed. Also, supervisors are expected to do at least one spot check on a household per day to verify the completed questionnaires and ensure that correct information is recorded. 

Furthermore, data entry starts almost simultaneously with data collection and in order to monitor the quality of the work, teams’ as well as individual interviewers’ performance is observed through the field check tables produced regularly and feedback is provided to the field teams regarding any problems identified.

 

How does MICS deal with refusals? 

If an interview is refused in a selected household, the supervisor of the team is responsible for returning to that household to explain the importance of the survey and to encourage the respondent to participate. If the household still refuses to be interviewed, the result of the household interview is marked as ‘refused’ and the field teams cannot replace this household with another. In other words, MICS does not allow replacement in such cases. Ultimately, such households are accounted as non-response during sample weight calculations.

 

How does MICS deal with unoccupied households? 

If a selected household is not occupied during the fieldwork team’s visit, the interviewer is responsible for returning to this household at least two more times. After repeated visits if there is still no one available, the result of the household interview is marked accordingly and the field teams cannot replace this household with another. In other words, MICS does not allow replacement of the selected households even if there is no respondent at home during the times the household is visited. 

 

In some cultures, it would be impossible to ask some of the questions to women who have never married. How do you deal with this problem?

This is correct – in some countries, mainly in the Middle Eastern region, some topics/questions are considered to be risky for cultural reasons. In such countries, the MICS approach is to skip a small number of modules in the questionnaires customized for that country so that topics/questions pertaining to subjects such as sexual behaviour, fertility and contraceptive use are not discussed with women who have never married. In very few countries, this issue has been resolved by confining the Individual Women’s Questionnaires to ever married women only. However, MICS does not recommend this.

 

Are all MICS surveys representative at the national level?

No, some MICS surveys cover a specific population group in a country, such as the Roma population in Serbia, or the Palestinians in Lebanon, and some others cover only a certain geographical area within a country, such as the Sindh province in Pakistan or the Dakar survey in Senegal.

 

Are some MICS surveys conducted on purposive samples?

No, regardless of the scope of the survey (national, or pertaining to a specific population group or geographical area within a country), all MICS surveys are based on representative samples, selected by using probabilistic, random samples.

 

Does MICS include biomarkers, such as blood testing for HIV or parasetemia, or urine tests?

In the standard MICS questionnaires and data collection tools, biomarkers are not included. However, in some MICS surveys, these have been added at the request of the government – in which case, technical support has been provided by other partner agencies, such as ICF International. Some examples are MICS surveys in Central African Republic, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.

 

How much does a MICS survey cost?

It is very difficult to come up with an average cost for a MICS survey, as this depends on a very large number of factors, ranging from the unit costs, transportation costs, types of activities that need to be carried out, the sample size, questionnaire size, and the like. 

 

UNICEF provides funding support to governments and the governments conduct the surveys. Is that correct?

This is not correct. UNICEF does provide funding support to MICS surveys in most cases, but there are increasingly more surveys where all survey costs are covered by governments. The contribution of other international and bilateral agencies is also very significant. UNICEF and government contributions are typically the largest funders of MICS surveys.

 

What measures does MICS take to ensure the data are accurately entered in the database?

All of the completed questionnaires returned from the field are checked prior to data entry to make sure that there is a corresponding questionnaire for every household selected in each cluster and for each eligible member identified in completed households. Then all the questionnaires in each cluster are entered twice by two different data entry clerks. After double entry, an error comparison sheet is produced which is checked by a secondary editor to confirm both data entry clerks have entered the correct value. 

 

I recently read about a MICS survey, why is it not on your list of surveys?

The Surveys page of the MICS website covers all surveys part of the Global MICS Programme, which are conducted with technical support from the MICS team. MICS tools can be downloaded and used – either partially or completely – for the implementation of any survey; therefore, even if a survey report mentions UNICEF as a partner and carries the MICS logo, and the text, questionnaires, as well as other documents appear to indicate a MICS survey, such a survey can be considered part of the MICS Programme only if it is listed on the Surveys page. Typically, the absence of a survey from this list means that it was conducted without technical support from the MICS Programme; however, this makes no indication regarding its quality. We often use the term “MICS-type” to label such surveys if the process and content are essentially in line with those used in the MICS Programme.

 

I have seen certain surveys called DHS-MICS or similar. Are these surveys done in collaboration between DHS and MICS?

Not necessarily. Generally this terminology has been used on a number of DHS surveys that included one or more MICS-specific modules, such as Senegal DHS 2010-11. Unless there is involvement of both survey programmes, MICS discourages this labelling as it tends to confuse the audience. Surveys that can be considered MICS surveys are only those which are conducted as part of the Global MICS Programme, follow the Technical Assistance Framework of MICS and adhere to the principles of the methodology. The best way to verify whether a survey was part of the MICS Programme is to look for it on the Surveys page of the MICS website. Very few surveys can truly be considered MICS-DHS surveys, for instance the Lao 2011-12 survey, but generally one survey programme must be the foundation on which the entire scope is run.

 

Can I have access to the datasets before the report is launched?

The datasets become available for public sharing only after the dissemination of the survey results at the country level, which includes the launch of the final report. The period between the time of the launch of the final report and the availability of the datasets varies from one survey to another but typically happens after a minimum of 2-3 months following the launch of the results.

 

How do I access MICS datasets?

Access to MICS datasets is provided only for completed surveys. Before you can download MICS datasets, you need to be registered as a MICS data user. Dataset access is only granted for legitimate research purposes. When you click on the survey datasets you want to download you will be directed to the page for registering and you may immediately download them after logging in. 

 

Is access to the datasets free?

Yes, full access to the datasets is provided free of charge. However, you are requested to send copies of all reports and publications based on the downloaded MICS data to the UNICEF office and the government partner which implemented the survey.

 

The status of the dataset I want to download shows ‘Not available’. What can I do to access them?

If the status of a survey dataset is shown as ‘not available’ this means that the MICS team does not have a copy of the dataset for public sharing. If, however, the status is shown as ‘not yet available’ this means that the dataset is expected to be available either soon or upon the completion of the survey (once the final report is published and the status of the survey changes to ‘completed’). For a few surveys the status of the datasets is shown as ‘restricted,’ which means sharing of the datasets is not allowed by the survey implementing agency or the governance body. 

 

Once I have downloaded datasets of MICS surveys, can I identify individuals or households?

No, the survey datasets are fully anonymized – which means that names of individuals, addresses, and other information that would potentially enable a data user to identify an individual or household that participated in the survey are deleted.

 

All downloadable datasets seem to be in SPSS format. Can I get datasets in SAS, Stata or other formats? Or in Excel?

All datasets are distributed in SPSS format. Datasets are not available in other formats. However, it is quite easy to import SPSS datasets into other statistical software packages.

 

Are the same questionnaires used globally?

Yes, MICS relies on globally standardized questionnaires that ensure the collection of comparable data across countries. There are four types of questionnaires: Household, individual women, individual men and children under the age of five.  At the country level, steering and technical committees review the standard questionnaires and adapt them according to the specific data needs by selecting modules and questions applicable to their setting. 

 

In some cultures, it would be impossible to ask some of the questions to women who have never married. How do you deal with this problem?

This is correct – in some countries, mainly in the Middle Eastern region, some topics/questions are considered to be risky for cultural reasons. In such countries, the MICS approach is to skip a small number of modules in the questionnaires customized for that country so that topics/questions pertaining to subjects such as sexual behaviour, fertility and contraceptive use are not asked to women who have never married. In very few countries, this issue has been resolved by confining the Individual Women’s Questionnaires to ever married women only. However, MICS does not recommend this.

 

Who are the respondents to MICS questionnaires?

The respondent to the household questionnaire could be any knowledgeable adult member living in the household. Women and men age 15-49 are administered more detailed, individual questionnaires. The questionnaire for children under age five is administered to the mother of the child. If the mother is deceased or does not live in the same household as the child, then  the primary caretaker of the child is identified and interviewed.

 

What is MICS?

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) is an international household survey programme developed by UNICEF in the 1990s. Since then, close to 300 surveys have been carried out in over 100 countries. The fifth round of MICS included 50 surveys in low, middle and high income countries.

 

What information is collected in MICS?

MICS is designed to collect statistically sound, internationally comparable estimates of about 130 indicators to assess the situation of children, women and men in the areas of health, education, and child protection among many others, including 21 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators. MICS continues to play an essential role in the collection of high-quality data for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

What are the topics and indicators covered by MICS?

MICS covers topics and indicators related to children’s well-being, women, and households, ranging from health and education to child protection and water and sanitation. 

To learn more about the topics covered in MICS and the complete list of indicators, visit the Tools pages.

 

Do MICS surveys collect and/or release GIS data?

The MICS Programme does not include GIS data collection on a standard basis, but some MICS surveys do include GIS data collection (see guidance). Typically, this is carried out for a specific purpose, such as when a survey collects data for the anemia biomarker, which requires altitude information. However, this does not mean that detailed spatial analysis is impossible -- even for surveys that have not carried out GIS data collection. The majority of Statistical Offices participating in the MICS Programme already have digitized maps of cluster locations through their Census cartography. The MICS Programme therefore advises researchers interested in spatial analysis to contact the individual Statistical Offices or other implementing agencies with requests. Contact details are typically in final reports and with the final datasets. One needs the “key” that matches the cluster numbers in the datasets with the enumeration areas in the Census maps. Additionally, one must be granted access to Census maps and, for any map presentation, must incorporate a random offset of the cluster location.

 

Why does MICS only collect data on children under 5 years of age but not on children of all ages?

Children under age five are the focal point of many programmatic interventions in areas of interest to governments, UNICEF and other partners. However, in addition to the questionnaire for children under five, MICS also collects data on children age five or above through the household questionnaire (such as education, child labour and child discipline) as well as the questionnaire for individual women and men (through retrospective questions such as age at marriage or early childbearing).

 

How long does MICS fieldwork typically last?

This depends on the sample size of each survey, as well as the number of fieldworkers and the number of households that are completed per day. On average, fieldwork is completed in 2 to 4 months in most MICS surveys.

 

What measures does MICS take to ensure the data are collected accurately?

The data collection teams include a supervisor, a field editor, a measurer, and varying numbers of female and male interviewers depending on the overall workload. No interviewer can collect any information alone i.e. they must all go as a team to collect data with the supervisor checking the map to ensure they are approaching the correctly selected household and the editor checking their work immediately upon completion. The information from the individual questionnaire is also cross referenced to other questionnaires completed in that household for accuracy.

One important element of MICS surveys is the presence of a field editor within the teams to ensure any potentially incorrect responses are investigated and resolved while the survey teams are still in the field.

The field supervisors monitor the survey teams during the entire fieldwork process and observe interviews to ensure the MICS guidelines are followed. Also, supervisors are expected to do at least one spot check on a household per day to verify the completed questionnaires and ensure that correct information is recorded. 

Furthermore, data entry starts almost simultaneously with data collection and in order to monitor the quality of the work, teams’ as well as individual interviewers’ performance is observed through the field check tables produced regularly and feedback is provided to the field teams regarding any problems identified.

 

How does MICS deal with refusals? 

If an interview is refused in a selected household, the supervisor of the team is responsible for returning to that household to explain the importance of the survey and to encourage the respondent to participate. If the household still refuses to be interviewed, the result of the household interview is marked as ‘refused’ and the field teams cannot replace this household with another. In other words, MICS does not allow replacement in such cases. Ultimately, such households are accounted as non-response during sample weight calculations.

 

How does MICS deal with unoccupied households? 

If a selected household is not occupied during the fieldwork team’s visit, the interviewer is responsible for returning to this household at least two more times. After repeated visits if there is still no one available, the result of the household interview is marked accordingly and the field teams cannot replace this household with another. In other words, MICS does not allow replacement of the selected households even if there is no respondent at home during the times the household is visited. 

 

In some cultures, it would be impossible to ask some of the questions to women who have never married. How do you deal with this problem?

This is correct – in some countries, mainly in the Middle Eastern region, some topics/questions are considered to be risky for cultural reasons. In such countries, the MICS approach is to skip a small number of modules in the questionnaires customized for that country so that topics/questions pertaining to subjects such as sexual behaviour, fertility and contraceptive use are not discussed with women who have never married. In very few countries, this issue has been resolved by confining the Individual Women’s Questionnaires to ever married women only. However, MICS does not recommend this.

 

Are all MICS surveys representative at the national level?

No, some MICS surveys cover a specific population group in a country, such as the Roma population in Serbia, or the Palestinians in Lebanon, and some others cover only a certain geographical area within a country, such as the Sindh province in Pakistan or the Dakar survey in Senegal.

 

Are some MICS surveys conducted on purposive samples?

No, regardless of the scope of the survey (national, or pertaining to a specific population group or geographical area within a country), all MICS surveys are based on representative samples, selected by using probabilistic, random samples.

 

Does MICS include biomarkers, such as blood testing for HIV or parasetemia, or urine tests?

In the standard MICS questionnaires and data collection tools, biomarkers are not included. However, in some MICS surveys, these have been added at the request of the government – in which case, technical support has been provided by other partner agencies, such as ICF International. Some examples are MICS surveys in Central African Republic, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.

 

How much does a MICS survey cost?

It is very difficult to come up with an average cost for a MICS survey, as this depends on a very large number of factors, ranging from the unit costs, transportation costs, types of activities that need to be carried out, the sample size, questionnaire size, and the like. 

 

UNICEF provides funding support to governments and the governments conduct the surveys. Is that correct?

This is not correct. UNICEF does provide funding support to MICS surveys in most cases, but there are increasingly more surveys where all survey costs are covered by governments. The contribution of other international and bilateral agencies is also very significant. UNICEF and government contributions are typically the largest funders of MICS surveys.

 

What measures does MICS take to ensure the data are accurately entered in the database?

All of the completed questionnaires returned from the field are checked prior to data entry to make sure that there is a corresponding questionnaire for every household selected in each cluster and for each eligible member identified in completed households. Then all the questionnaires in each cluster are entered twice by two different data entry clerks. After double entry, an error comparison sheet is produced which is checked by a secondary editor to confirm both data entry clerks have entered the correct value. 

 

I recently read about a MICS survey, why is it not on your list of surveys?

The Surveys page of the MICS website covers all surveys part of the Global MICS Programme, which are conducted with technical support from the MICS team. MICS tools can be downloaded and used – either partially or completely – for the implementation of any survey; therefore, even if a survey report mentions UNICEF as a partner and carries the MICS logo, and the text, questionnaires, as well as other documents appear to indicate a MICS survey, such a survey can be considered part of the MICS Programme only if it is listed on the Surveys page. Typically, the absence of a survey from this list means that it was conducted without technical support from the MICS Programme; however, this makes no indication regarding its quality. We often use the term “MICS-type” to label such surveys if the process and content are essentially in line with those used in the MICS Programme.

 

I have seen certain surveys called DHS-MICS or similar. Are these surveys done in collaboration between DHS and MICS?

Not necessarily. Generally this terminology has been used on a number of DHS surveys that included one or more MICS-specific modules, such as Senegal DHS 2010-11. Unless there is involvement of both survey programmes, MICS discourages this labelling as it tends to confuse the audience. Surveys that can be considered MICS surveys are only those which are conducted as part of the Global MICS Programme, follow the Technical Assistance Framework of MICS and adhere to the principles of the methodology. The best way to verify whether a survey was part of the MICS Programme is to look for it on the Surveys page of the MICS website. Very few surveys can truly be considered MICS-DHS surveys, for instance the Lao 2011-12 survey, but generally one survey programme must be the foundation on which the entire scope is run.

 

Can I have access to the datasets before the report is launched?

The datasets become available for public sharing only after the dissemination of the survey results at the country level, which includes the launch of the final report. The period between the time of the launch of the final report and the availability of the datasets varies from one survey to another but typically happens after a minimum of 2-3 months following the launch of the results.

 

How do I access MICS datasets?

Access to MICS datasets is provided only for completed surveys. Before you can download MICS datasets, you need to be registered as a MICS data user. Dataset access is only granted for legitimate research purposes. When you click on the survey datasets you want to download you will be directed to the page for registering and you may immediately download them after logging in. 

 

Is access to the datasets free?

Yes, full access to the datasets is provided free of charge. However, you are requested to send copies of all reports and publications based on the downloaded MICS data to the UNICEF office and the government partner which implemented the survey.

 

The status of the dataset I want to download shows ‘Not available’. What can I do to access them?

If the status of a survey dataset is shown as ‘not available’ this means that the MICS team does not have a copy of the dataset for public sharing. If, however, the status is shown as ‘not yet available’ this means that the dataset is expected to be available either soon or upon the completion of the survey (once the final report is published and the status of the survey changes to ‘completed’). For a few surveys the status of the datasets is shown as ‘restricted,’ which means sharing of the datasets is not allowed by the survey implementing agency or the governance body. 

 

Once I have downloaded datasets of MICS surveys, can I identify individuals or households?

No, the survey datasets are fully anonymized – which means that names of individuals, addresses, and other information that would potentially enable a data user to identify an individual or household that participated in the survey are deleted.

 

All downloadable datasets seem to be in SPSS format. Can I get datasets in SAS, Stata or other formats? Or in Excel?

All datasets are distributed in SPSS format. Datasets are not available in other formats. However, it is quite easy to import SPSS datasets into other statistical software packages.

 

Are the same questionnaires used globally?

Yes, MICS relies on globally standardized questionnaires that ensure the collection of comparable data across countries. There are four types of questionnaires: Household, individual women, individual men and children under the age of five.  At the country level, steering and technical committees review the standard questionnaires and adapt them according to the specific data needs by selecting modules and questions applicable to their setting. 

 

In some cultures, it would be impossible to ask some of the questions to women who have never married. How do you deal with this problem?

This is correct – in some countries, mainly in the Middle Eastern region, some topics/questions are considered to be risky for cultural reasons. In such countries, the MICS approach is to skip a small number of modules in the questionnaires customized for that country so that topics/questions pertaining to subjects such as sexual behaviour, fertility and contraceptive use are not asked to women who have never married. In very few countries, this issue has been resolved by confining the Individual Women’s Questionnaires to ever married women only. However, MICS does not recommend this.

 

Who are the respondents to MICS questionnaires?

The respondent to the household questionnaire could be any knowledgeable adult member living in the household. Women and men age 15-49 are administered more detailed, individual questionnaires. The questionnaire for children under age five is administered to the mother of the child. If the mother is deceased or does not live in the same household as the child, then  the primary caretaker of the child is identified and interviewed.