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To Measure is to Know? A Comparative Analysis of Gender Indices


  • Irene van Staveren


In this paper, I present a comparative analysis of five cross-country composite gender indices. Although there is a relatively high correlation between the indices, the overlap of underlying indicators is low. Country rankings both at the top and at the bottom have parallels but are quite distinct. The differences are explained in two ways: methodologically and theoretically. The methodological differences concern in particular weights, capping, and aggregation. The Capability Approach helps to explain the different focus of each index by distinguishing between four stages of human development, which include distinct types of indicators. The substantial differences that exist between the gender indices require a cautious selection between these for research and policy analysis. This is shown in a few examples with policy variables. Finally, I present a set of three decision trees, which enables an informed choice between the indices.

Suggested Citation

  • Irene van Staveren, 2013. "To Measure is to Know? A Comparative Analysis of Gender Indices," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 71(3), pages 339-372, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:71:y:2013:i:3:p:339-372
    DOI: 10.1080/00346764.2012.707398

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sabina Alkire, 2007. "The Missing Dimensions of Poverty Data: Introduction to the Special Issue," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(4), pages 347-359.
    2. Boris Branisa & Stephan Klasen & Maria Ziegler, 2009. "The Construction of the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 184, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. de Haan, Arjan & Foa, Roberto, 2014. "Indices of social development and their application to Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 132, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. AfDB AfDB, 2016. "North Africa - Working paper - Measuring Inclusive Growth: From Theory to Applications in North Africa," Working Paper Series 2339, African Development Bank.
    3. Janet Gale Stotsky & Sakina Shibuya & Lisa L Kolovich & Suhaib Kebhaj, 2016. "Trends in Gender Equality and Women’s Advancement," IMF Working Papers 16/21, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Underwood, C.R. & Leddy, A.M. & Morgan, M., 2014. "Gender-equity or gender-equality scales and indices for potential use in aquatic agricultural systems," Working Papers, The WorldFish Center, number 40447, June.
    5. Amie Gaye & Jeni Klugman & Milorad Kovacevic & Sarah Twigg & Eduardo Zambrano, 2013. "Measuring gender disparities in human development," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life, chapter 24, pages 393-409 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Haan, A. de, 2015. "Social inclusion and structural transformation: Concepts, measurements and trade-offs," MERIT Working Papers 045, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    7. AfDB AfDB, 2017. "North Africa - Working paper - Measuring Inclusive Growth: From theory to applications in North Africa," Working Paper Series 2353, African Development Bank.
    8. Ferretti, Fabrizio & Mariani, Michele, 2017. "Gender Discrimination, Gender Disparities in Obesity and Human Development," MPRA Paper 77728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Huang, Y.L. & Cameron, J., 2012. "Granger inspired testing the ISDs for possible causal relationships," ISD Working Paper Series 2012-01, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.

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