How to Read DHS Tables (English)

Statistical tables can look intimidating at first glance. This video walks you through how to read and understand tables from The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program final reports. With all DHS Program surveys, there are a few simple steps that you can use to help you understand the data being presented in the table. In this video, we will be looking at a table from The DHS Program’s model datasets. The model datasets were created strictly for practice and do not represent any country’s actual data. You can download the model datasets final report tables, as well as the datasets themselves, for free without registering, from our website: Step 1 is to read the title and subtitle. They tell you the topic and the specific population group being described.

The title of the table is: Table 3.Exposure to mass media: Women. The title provides a very basic description of the information contained in the table. The subtitle of the table is: Percentage of women age 15-49 who are exposed to specific media on a weekly basis, according to background characteristics, Model DHS 6 data. As you may have noticed, the subtitle contains much more information than the title. The first thing the subtitle tells you is the denominator for the table. In this case, the denominator is women age 15-49. Second, the subtitle tells you the topic of the table. In this case, women’s exposure to specific media on a weekly basis. Third, the subtitle tells you how the data are presented. Here the data are broken down by women’s background characteristics.

Finally, the subtitle tells you the survey year and country. For this exercise, we are using the model datasets. Step 2 is to scan the column headings. The column headings describe how the information is categorized. This table has six columns of data. The first three columns show women that access different types of media at least once a week: newspaper, television, and radio. The fourth column shows women who access all three types of media, while the fifth column shows women who do not access any of the three types of media at least once a week. The last column shows the denominator, in this case the number of women age 15-49 interviewed in the survey. Denominators vary from table to table, so it’s important to find out which population is examined in the table.

This table shows us that 8,348 women age 15-49 were asked about their exposure to mass media. Step 3 is to scan the row headings. These are found in the first vertical column in the table. They show the different ways the data are divided into categories based on background characteristics. In this case, the table presents women’s exposure to mass media by age, urban or rural residence, region, educational level and wealth quintile.

Most of the tables in The DHS Program final reports will be divided into similar categories. Step 4 is to find the overall percentages. The totals can be found in the row at the bottom of the table. These percentages represent the totals of all women age 15-49 and their access to different types of media. For example, 7.7% of women read the newspaper at least once a week, while 18.1% watch television and 41.0% listen to the radio on a weekly basis. Let’s find the percentage of women age 15-49 with secondary or higher education that access all three media at least once a week. Draw two imaginary lines, one extending from the row for women with secondary or higher education and the other extending from the column for accesses all three media at least once a week. This shows that 13.4% of women age 15-49 with secondary or higher education access all three media at least once a week. Let’s do some practice questions. Feel free to pause the video after each question if you feel like you need more time.

What percentage of women do not access any of the three media at least once a week? It’s 54.0% Are women in urban or rural areas more likely to read the newspaper weekly? Women in urban areas: 14.3% read the newspaper weekly, compared to 2.3% of women in rural areas. Is there a clear relationship between weekly exposure to television and wealth quintile? Yes. Weekly exposure to television increases as household wealth increases, from 1.9% of women in the lowest wealth quintile to 52.9% of women in the highest wealth quintile. Final question, how many women in Region 4 were asked questions about their exposure to mass media? It’s 1,574, which is the denominator for Region 4. For more information or to download the model datasets, visit our website..

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