The Social Lab is a centre for social indicators research at IPS. It was established in 2013. The centre conducts research on social perceptions, attitudes and behaviours in Singapore using the most robust standards in survey methodology and statistical analyses. Researchers also collect and analyse panel data to complement cross-sectional and time-series data.

The changing social landscape of Singapore means we need reliable data and high-quality analysis to track and evaluate shifts in demographic trends and adaptive processes. Insights gained through objective social science research can enhance our understanding of social attitudes and resilience, and knowledge of emerging socio-economic challenges confronting Singapore. As the sense-making arm of IPS, Social Lab seeks to work closely with researchers from government and academia to support informed decision-making and policy formulation for a new multicultural setting. Its long-term aim is to be a national resource centre for longitudinal data.

Social Lab is headed by IPS Senior Research Fellow Dr Mathew Mathews and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow Mr Freddy Hong. Its Academic Adviser is Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore.


IPS Social Lab works closely with our clients to plan and determine the research goals of each project. Our studies are guided by robust methodological designs and advanced statistical principles and analyses. We have the capability to collect data using multiple platforms depending on the complexity and needs of the research. We constantly explore new technologies to enhance fieldwork efficiency and ensure data integrity.

IPS Social Lab manages the entire lifecycle of a research undertaking. This includes the distribution of research findings and data to relevant stakeholders, and the management of communication tools like press releases, where necessary. Today, Social Lab is the first and the only agency among all universities in Singapore that has attained the ISO certification for fieldwork operations.


IPS Social Lab emphasises data integrity and quality control. Quality control in survey research ensures that the survey results are accurate, reliable and valid. Our quality control measures span the entire survey research process.


In general, sampling methods can be differentiated between probability sampling and non-probability sampling. In probability sampling, every element in the population has a known and non-zero probability of being selected into the sample. An example is random household sampling, where each household unit has a known and equal chance of being selected. In non-probability sampling, participants are selected into the sample in a non-random manner, where each element has an unknown probability of being selected. Some examples include quota sampling, snowball sampling and convenience sampling. The choice of sampling method depends on the goals of the research, its context as well as target respondents and the resources available. These factors should also inform choices in the mode of data collection, e.g., face-to-face interviews, Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI), or online surveys.


Interviewers that conduct surveys are adequately trained, especially in terms of their behaviour (e.g., tone, verbal language, body language) when executing the surveys, which plays a significant role in affecting how respondents answer questions. We go a step further to conduct onsite validation and fieldwork observations to ensure that interviewers perform to our required standards. Data verification is also performed to ensure that respondents provided true and accurate data. This is performed by a separate and independent team to ensure objectivity in the process as well as detect and reject any fraudulent data.


IPS applies advanced multivariate data science in all our research. The analyses range from top-line visualisation, to variable-centred analysis, and person-centred studies. Such analysis is adjusted to fit the research objective and combines the latest techniques in survey research.


To make sense of social attitudes, values and behaviours, IPS Social Lab uses a combination of data from individuals, households and their neighbourhoods. By doing this, we integrate the survey data with broader socio-environmental factors. The Geographic Information System (GIS) is the lynchpin to this “smart data” movement, and serves as the foundation of all panel and cross-sectional studies. IPS Social Lab has had notable successes in using GIS for the analysis of crime, residential ethnic clustering, and sentiments towards governance. For example, the study on neighbourhood resilience proposes recommendations to policy makers to reduce emerging fault lines in certain planning areas.


Social Lab is headed by IPS Senior Research Fellow Dr Mathew Mathews and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow Mr Freddy Hong. Its Academic Adviser is Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore.

Social Lab’s flagship project is a panel study on social dynamics. The study tracks changes in the lives of Singaporeans over time, through a representative panel of 5,000 households across Singapore. The purpose is to measure family relationships, social mobility and societal attitudes relevant to national identity over an extended period. Launched in 2014, the longitudinal study is the first of its kind in Singapore to reach out to a wide-ranging, random sample of households through in-depth, face-to-face interviews by trained surveyors.

Lead Researcher: Natalie Pang

The study aims to build a holistic understanding of youth in Singapore, including their educational/career pathways and trajectories, life outcomes and the factors that contribute to these desired outcomes. It involves a nationally-representative panel who will be recruited and tracked over six years. Youth aged between 17 and 19, and 20 and 24, will be surveyed on their sense of rootedness, family relationships, societal engagement and economic mobility and the findings aim to help policymakers formulate more relevant youth policies and programmes.

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

This study aims to investigate the various forms of behaviour exhibited on digital platforms and why these forms of behaviours are exhibited. Given the prevalence and reach of digital platforms in our society today, this research will help us better inform policy decisions and devise interventions where necessary to address any issues related to digital platform use in Singapore.

Lead Researcher: Natalie Pang

The Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) was implemented in 1989 to prevent the formation of ethnic residential enclaves in Singapore.  This policy ensures that every block of public housing has a mixture of all racial groups.  In-spite of this policy, there are signs that certain estates remain the favourite residential sites for different racial groups .   This study explores the residential preference for Housing Development Board (HDB) resale home buyers through the housing agents.  It will identify the key drivers among prospective home owners, and how these forces will undermine our social fabric.  

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

This study examines how the social and built environment influence attitudes to immigrants, community trust, and the formation of social capital.  Based on a national survey involving more than 3,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents, we examine the geo-spatial connections between neighbourhood social norms and Singaporeans’ acceptance of immigrants and immigration policies.   The study will also uncover the types of facilities and physical features that can make a positive change in perceptions, and those that may exacerbate tensions. 

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

The National Population Health Survey (NPHS) is an ongoing survey to assess the health status of Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. Jointly conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Health Promotion Board (HPB), the survey focuses on obtaining key health statistics from selected households across Singapore. It aims to gather insights on demographics and health-related factors such as chronic diseases, exercise, health screening, mental well-being, nutrition and smoking. The data collected helps shape policies and develop programmes that cater to the nation's health needs. IPS Social Lab had been appointed to administer this survey.

The Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) Committee was set up to examine ways to strengthen the applied education pathway in our polytechnics and ITE, and to propose feasible strategies to achieve this. This was to ensure that our polytechnic and ITE graduates have good career and academic progression prospects. IPS Social Lab conducted one of the surveys in February 2014 where its findings were incorporated into the policy recommendations in the final ASPIRE report. Among the recommendations were to lengthen the duration of internships, emphasise vocational hands-on training and enhance academic learning.

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

In 2016, IPS Social Lab conducted a survey of hawker food prices and created the Makan Index, an index of relative hawker food prices. The index acted as a proxy indicator for the cost of living in Singapore, where its relationship to various socio-economic factors was also investigated. Social Lab is updating the Makan Index in 2017 with certain improvements and refinements. Among them will be a survey of the number of halal-certified stalls and an examination of the effect that food places run by social enterprises have on food prices of eating places in the vicinity.

Lead Researcher: Goh Zhang Hao 

The IPS Social Lab is conducting a study to understand how Singaporeans’ perceptions of physical heritage influence their sense of national identity, national pride and personal well-being. It aims to gain a deeper understanding of what Singaporeans perceive as important landmarks and buildings in Singapore, and why. Such research will aid the planning and implementation of heritage conservation policies.

Lead Researcher: Paveena Seah

A survey on public perceptions of Singapore’s history was conducted between August and October 2014 to explore the different strands of the Singapore narrative, and the influential stories that inspire current and future generations of Singaporeans. More than 1,500 Singaporean respondents were taken through a list of 50 local historical events. We asked: Which events were Singaporeans aware of, and which did they think were important to them and to future generations? Findings from this survey were presented at the Singapore Perspectives 2015 “Choices” conference in January 2015.

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

The survey asked 1,251 Singapore citizens between July and September 2013 what National Service (NS) means to them, tapping on their personal NS experiences. The belief in the need for NS; the level of family support for NS; perceived employers’ attitudes toward NS; perceived policy fairness; and training safety and quality of medical support in NS, were some of the issues examined. The study delved into emerging issues, in particular, the opinions regarding women and permanent residents contributing to defence. Finally, it examined how the NS institution could be strengthened to make servicemen feel appreciated. Read more here.

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

A survey of 12,000 Singapore citizens aged 21 or older will be conducted to get a sensing of citizens’ perceptions and attitudes in areas such as social values, governance, municipal issues, cost of living, housing, integration and emigration. The survey will also investigate Singaporeans’ perceptions of key institutions and political attitudes, and gauge the extent of political legitimacy.

Lead Researcher: Tan Ern Ser

As of 2016, there were an estimated 213,400 Singaporeans living, working or studying abroad. This survey explores the demographic and socio-economic profile of overseas Singaporeans, their attitudes toward Singapore and returning home, as well as their general concerns and views towards outreach and engagement programmes. This study is a follow-up to an online survey conducted in 2013, which interviewed over 3,000 respondents.

Lead Researcher: Leong Chan Hoong