Undercounting, Underreporting, and Inequality in the Global Development Data Infrastructure

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Shawn DORIUS, Iowa State University, USA
The development community cannot monitor what it cannot measure. The ability of civil society, development practitioners, and national agencies to monitor and evaluate progress toward development objectives such as the United Nations Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals of are critically dependent on the availability of reliable, valid and representative data of the world’s citizens. Within the context of world development, growing awareness of substantial missingness, undercounting, and underrepresentation of key population’s calls attention to the need for more and better data from which to establish goals, monitor progress, enact policy prescriptions, and engage in scientific research. The present research reports results from a systematic analysis of the international development data infrastructure (IDDI), including a newly assembled database of the international social survey infrastructure spanning the last 60 years. Special attention is given to international social surveys because they are one of the principle mechanisms by which world citizens, especially those living in impoverished and non-democratic countries, are able to communicate their attitudes, beliefs, values and aspirations to the world community. Social surveys serve a vital role in a broad range of national and sub-national development activities, but they stand apart as one of the few instruments giving voice to underrepresented populations where freedoms of speech and action are as yet limited. Analysis of the (IDDI) shows substantial underrepresentation of non-Western countries, and until recently, almost total absence of many populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Poor, geographically remote countries are substantially undercounted in the IDDI, as are countries with weak ties to the world polity, limited exposure to institutions of higher education and world cultural development. Inequality in the IDDI is high, with the most surveyed countries the subject of more than 200 survey measurements, and still many countries lacking even a single measurement in a comparative social survey program.