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The Last Mile in Analyzing Wellbeing and Poverty: Indices of Social Development

Listed author(s):
  • Irene van Staveren
  • Ellen Webbink
  • Arjan de Haan
  • Roberto Foa

Development practitioners worldwide increasingly recognize the importance of informal institutions-such as norms of cooperation, non-discrimination, or the role of community oversight in the management of investment activities-in affecting well-being, poverty, and even economic growth. There has been little empirical analysis that tests these relationships at the international level. This is largely due to data limitations: few reliable, globally representative data sources exist that can provide a basis for cross-country comparison of social norms and practice, social trust, and community engagement. The International Institute of Social Studies now hosts a large database of social development indicators compiled from a wide range of sources in a first attempt to overcome such data constraints, at a low cost ( The Indices of Social Development are based on over 200 measures from 25 reputable data sources for the years 1990 to 2010.These measures are aggregated into six composite indices: civic activism, interpersonal safety and trust, inter-group cohesion, clubs and associations, gender equality, and inclusion of minorities. Not all data sources provide observations for indicators in each country, but together these data sources allow for comprehensive estimates of social behavior and norms of interaction across a broad range of societies, and increasingly with possibilities to track changes over time. This paper presents the database, highlights the differences, similarities, and complementarities with other measures of well-being, including those around income poverty, multidimensional poverty, and human development.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Forum for Social Economics.

Volume (Year): 43 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 8-26

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Handle: RePEc:taf:fosoec:v:43:y:2014:i:1:p:8-26
DOI: 10.1080/07360932.2013.780980
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