The City of Beirut: A Socio-Economic Survey

The City of Beirut: A Socio-Economic Survey

The City of Beirut: A Socio-Economic Survey

The City of Beirut: A Socio-Economic Survey

Excerpt

This study of the city of Beirut by the Economic Research Institute of the American University of Beirut is intended primarily as a means of collecting some basic socio-economic information, and for training students and government employees in survey methods. It is the first in a series of similar studies of Arab cities which the Institute hopes to undertake. The Institute believes that by investigating Arab cities and providing useful socio-economic data in this field it is fulfilling a badly needed function. Previous studies of Arab communities have been largely anthropological and non-quantitative. Moreover, there is a tradition in international agencies as well as research foundations that the peasant should be the focus of attention of socio-economic studies. This attitude is an unbalanced one. In many Middle Eastern countries the urban population is very substantial. In Lebanon it is larger than the rural. Moreover, urban populations wield an influence far out of proportion to their numbers. Two important sectors of Arab populations deserve a great deal more study. One is the urban working classes which are a very important source of social dynamics. These classes are typically underprivileged and must be reckoned with in the future development of Arab countries. A second urban group is the growing middle class which is gradually moving into a position of power. At any rate, political and economic change now finds its focus in Arab cities and, most likely, will continue to do so, at least for some time.

It was initially believed that funds existed for a sample of 4,000, and this figure was set as the initial target. It was expected, however, that the figure might be cut to a lower number if it was found that a smaller sample would be sufficient. This was realized inadvertently when costs were found to be much higher than expected; only 2,260 contacts were then made, of which 1,903 were residential and thus includable.

After conferences with Mr. Mustapha Nsuli, at that time Director of the Statistical Office and now Director General of the Ministry of National Economy, and Mr. Nadim Harfouche, Director General of the Ministry of Social Affairs, it was agreed by all concerned that the best sponsorship would be that of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The reason for this was two-fold. First, it was believed that people were more likely to respond to enumerators armed with credentials from the Ministry of Social Affairs than from any other branch of the government except possibly the Ministry of Health, which was not concerned. It was known to be very important that people know that the government was not investigating them as persons, but that the families interviewed had been chosen as representatives of Beirut's population. This is why no names were taken and, as a result, there is no possibility that any agency or individual, governmental or private, will have information from the survey which is associated with any specific family in the city. The second reason was equally important. The Institute had been convinced in talks with Mr. Harfouche that he was seriously interested in collecting information relative to the welfare of the population on which he could base recommendations for governmental action. Both Mr. Nsuli and Mr. Harfouche did all in their power to assist the project. They represent the best type of Arab civil servants. It was a pleasure to work with them. Their help was invaluable from the construction of the schedule to the publication of the results. From January to June 1952 employees of the Service de Statistique Générale revised a 1941 map of Beirut made by the French. Buildings and streets were mapped. The finished map constituted a frame for the survey from which the sample was drawn.

The drawing up of the schedule was entrusted to Professor Charles W. Churchill. Each . . .

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