A Computer Program for Processing Life History Data

by Iva S. Maclennan


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Designed to create a file for analysis by retrieving data from life history files, the RETRO program has been used in Rand projects on how economic and institutional factors influence birthspacing, family size, and breastfeeding in two countries, Malaysia and Guatemala. In both projects the survey instruments that were administered to a panel of respondents included retrospective life history questionnaires on pregnancies, use of contraceptives, breastfeeding, marital status changes, schooling, etc. Using these time-ordered data in analysis required that the desired variables first be transformed into records of fixed length. RETRO was used for this task. It can also be adapted for use with other life history surveys.

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