The Townsend Thai Project


In this Photo:

In Bangkok, dried fish at the market. Photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink.

Project Overview

The Townsend Thai project originated from a series of reflections about the relationship, and sometimes the lack of it, between rigorous academic research and policy creation. The project thus emerged as a means to understand the broader economic and social context in which policies are enacted and research is conducted. Its goal is to build a bridge between policy and research by providing rich data from which academics and policy-makers alike can better understand household activities and behavior, as well as their relationship to the broader regional and national economy. The project brings together primary data gathered by the Thai Family Research Project (TFRP) and secondary data archived by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) for researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and other prominent universities around the world.

The purpose of having multiple data sources readily available and easily accessible is to further research on the microeconomic foundations of the macro economy; that is, to develop microeconomic and macroeconomic models, ideally combining the two. Specifically, these data can be used to construct and estimate general equilibrium models with impediments to trade and with heterogeneity across households and firms. The user can choose the appropriate degree of aggregation of the microeconomic data, or go back and forth between micro and macro. Indeed, this archive facilitates fact-finding missions. Several of the individual databases have automated search and data extraction facilities. A number of the microdata files include geographic identifiers at the plot, village, sub-county (tambon), county (amphoe), or provincial (changwat) level, thus enabling the use of an accompanying Geographic Information System.

The larger goal of this web-based archive is to facilitate the integration of theory with measurement. Frequently the data a theorist might need to calibrate or estimate a model is not available in the single database on hand, hence the inclusion of multiple databases here. Frequently, the necessary data are not available at all because many existing surveys do not include variables critical for theoretical models. For example, until recently, no longitudinal data were available for Thailand. A key component of this website is a panel database derived from micro surveys designed from a theoretical perspective. This collection, known as the Townsend Thai data, is available through an online archive at Information on other databases providing further information on Thailand is also available through the University of Chicago/University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce archive (UC-UTCC) at