8. Sociodemographic Data

International Monetary Fund. Statistics Dept.
Published Date:
December 2013
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8.1 The GDDS recommends data on population as an addendum; although population data do not fit into the groupings of data categories by sector, they are useful as a scaling factor—for example, as in GDP per capita. Some countries maintain more than one set of population data; the one to be disseminated should be the series most widely used in the country. The metadata should describe the characteristics of the series, including its scope—such as whether the series represents all persons physically present (de facto population) or all usual residents (de jure population). Concepts, distributions, and characteristics have been elaborated by the United Nations (UN) in Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses,1 which participants may use as a point of reference in preparing the metadata. The metadata for the DSBB should note differences from international guidelines, if any.

8.2 The data category refers to the total size of the population. The GDDS does not prescribe component detail but encourages the dissemination of key distributions by age and sex, for example. Such distributions provide the link to an array of social statistics.

8.3 The GDDS recommends dissemination of annual data and the conducting of a census every 10 years. For annually updated population data, the GDDS encourages dissemination with a timeliness of 3–6 months. Census data should be disseminated within 9–12 months of completing the census.


8.4 Education statistics are generally produced and disseminated by the agencies that oversee public education services, including those that accredit education facilities and train or license teachers, as well as schools, colleges, and universities that provide education. Responsibility for data collection and reporting may be centralized in one agency or scattered among many.

8.5 In practice, data are obtained primarily from administrative reporting systems of the education ministry and national surveys, but statistical reports may also be compiled and disseminated by another agency, such as the national statistical office. The metadata should record the work of the agencies responsible for the primary production of education statistics and their first public release. The internal process of collecting administrative data is not of concern to the GDDS, except insofar as it affects the coverage, quality, or integrity of the resulting statistics.

8.6 Data are organized in three subcategories: inputs, which measure the physical and financial resources available to the education system; process, which records the flow of students through the system; and outcomes, which measure attainment and learning achievement.

8.7 The education sector comprises all levels of the formal education system: primary, secondary, and tertiary, along with preprimary and vocational training if possible. The use of the International Standard Classification of Education is recommended for international reporting of data. Disaggregation by age, gender, grade or level of education, and type of educational program, along with the disaggregation of data by subnational or regional units, as appropriate, is encouraged. If adult literacy and nonformal training programs are significant, data on these activities should also be reported, along with measures of literacy and numeracy in the population.

8.8 In nearly all countries, the government is the predominant supplier of education, and published statistics may record only the activities of public education programs. But in many countries private, religious, or military schools also play an important role. As far as possible, data should be collected from such entities and included in statistical reports.


8.9 Health statistics are generally produced by the agencies that oversee public health services, including those that accredit health facilities and train and license health workers, as well as those that provide primary health care. Responsibility for data collection and reporting may be centralized in one agency or scattered among many. The primary sources of health statistics are administrative systems, including hospital records and national health surveys. Like education statistics, health statistics are organized in three subcategories: inputs, process, and outcomes. Process measures are further divided into preventative and curative. These are analytically useful, but they may not reflect the actual structure of reporting used in a country.

8.10 Inputs include the financial resources used by the public health system, the number and capacity of facilities, and the personnel employed in providing services. A complete system of health accounts would also record private expenditures, but in practice these data are difficult to obtain. However, the number and capacity of private facilities and the number of trained personnel in private practice should be available. Information on personal behaviors that affect health status, such as the use of contraceptives or the consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, may be obtained from surveys or estimated indirectly from aggregate consumption data.

8.11 Process or service delivery measures should record the type of service provided and characteristics of the population served. Among the most important categories of preventative services provided are immunizations, mother and child health outpatient care, and reproductive health services. Other services, such as sewerage, solid waste management, water supply, and sanitary protection of the food supply, may not be considered part of the formal health care system, but all have important effects on public health. Information on the scale and scope of these services, including measures of accessibility, is important for diagnosing sources of illness and identifying unmet needs. Curative services are those whose purpose is to treat specific diseases.

8.12 Reporting systems should track inpatient admission rates and outpatient visits to health providers. It is also useful to monitor the nonhealth aspects of service delivery—for example, waiting time for service, quality of facilities, and client perceptions of the quality of service.

8.13 Outcomes record the incidence of disease and causes of death. Disaggregation by age, gender, location, and the calculation of age-specific mortality rates by cause is encouraged. Data on contagious diseases, which can be used to identify and isolate outbreaks and direct treatment programs, should be compiled with higher frequency and greater timeliness than routine administrative statistics.


8.14 Poverty is a complex phenomenon and cannot be measured along a single dimension. “Money-metric” methods, based on the income or consumption of households or individuals, are commonly used to establish a “poverty line” and measure the number of poor and the depth of poverty. However, many statistics discussed in other categories, such as educational attainment, health status, and employment status, are useful for diagnosing poverty, especially when they are collected at a sufficiently disaggregated level.

8.15 Because poverty is fundamentally an affliction of individuals and a reflection of the unequal distribution of wealth, income, education, health, and access to public and private resources, the measurement of poverty requires microlevel data. These data are commonly produced through household surveys.

8.16 Consumption is a better measure of welfare than income. Consumption by individuals, accompanied by information on the characteristics of the household and of individual household members, is the preferred basis for assessing money-metric poverty. Because real income and therefore consumption may vary according to the time of the year and price levels, it is important to adjust for seasonal effects and regional price differences when compiling income and expenditure data.

8.17 A poverty line provides a standard way of classifying the population as poor and nonpoor. It is usually based on an estimate of the minimum level of income or consumption needed to sustain a person at a minimally acceptable level. While a poverty line may be based in part on objective standards, such as the cost of a minimum calorie budget, poverty lines are generally not comparable across countries because of differences in the cost of living and cultural perceptions of poverty.

8.18 The MDG-recommended poverty line—the proportion of the population living on less than US$1 a day—and the poverty gap ratio are calculated by the World Bank, using purchasing power parity (PPP). They therefore do not need to be covered in this section. However, if countries use US$1 a day, or a similar measure, as their national poverty line, the methodology and related metadata should be noted. However, since 2008 the poverty line employed by the World Bank for measuring extreme poverty and reported as part of the MDGs has been set at $1.25 a day in 2005 prices. Information on availability of income or consumption distribution should be noted, along with periodicity and timeliness.

8.19 Household income and expenditure surveys should collect information on the size and structure of the household, household assets, sources of income, and types of consumption expenditures. They may also record characteristics of individual household members. The more detailed the data collection and the closer it comes to measuring the resources and expenditures of individuals, the more useful it will be for identifying the poor, diagnosing the causes of poverty, and designing programs to eradicate it. However, household surveys are costly to administer, and large, complex data sets are likewise costly to analyze.

8.20 Access measures, which record the availability of important public services and use of these services, may be derived from household surveys or from the administrative records of service providers. They are most useful when recorded on a sufficiently small scale to provide some indication of the distribution and use of services. Mapping and geographic information systems, which record the proximity of people to service facilities, have proven to be a useful means of recording access information.

See also Supplementary Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses (New York: UN, 1990).

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