Measuring the Statistical Capacity of Nations


The international development community has used the World Bank's Statistical Capacity Index since its inception in 2004. The Sustainable Development Goals create new challenges for national statistical systems to produce high-quality and internationally comparable data. This paper reviews measurement methodologies, posits desired attributes, and presents theoretical and empirical frameworks to propose a new, improved index to monitor progress in the statistical capacity of nations. The paper illustrates the properties of the proposed index with global data from 2016.

About the Speakers:

James E. Foster

James E. Foster is the Vice Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs, and Professor of Economics at the George Washington University. He is also a Research Associate at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University. Professor Foster's research focuses on welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate and enhance the wellbeing of people. His work underlies many well-known social indices including the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) published annually by the UNDP in the Human Development Report, dozens of national MPIs used to guide domestic policy against poverty, the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) at USAID, the Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan, the Better Jobs Index of the InterAmerican Development Bank, and the Statistical Performance Index of the World Bank. Prof. Foster received his PhD in Economics from Cornell University and has a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Universidad Autonoma del Estado Hidalgo (Mexico).

Sabina Alkire 

Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a research centre within the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Dr Alkire works on a new approach to measuring poverty and well-being that goes beyond the traditional focus on income and growth. This multidimensional approach to measurement includes social goals, such as health, education, nutrition, standard of living and other valuable aspects of life. She devised a new method for measuring multidimensional poverty with her colleague James Foster (OPHI Research Associate and Professor of Economics at George Washington University) that has advantages over other poverty measures and has been adopted by the Mexican Government, the Bhutanese Government in their ‘Gross National Happiness Index’ and the United Nations Development Programme. Dr Alkire has been called upon to provide input and advice to several initiatives seeking to take a broader approach to well-being rather than just economic growth, for example, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (instigated by President Sarkozy); the United Nations Human Development Programme Human Development Report Office; the European Commission; and the UK’s Department for International Development.

Pali Lehohla

Pali Lehohla is a member of the steering committee of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN). He is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former Head of Statistics South Africa from 2000–2017. Since leaving office, Pali consults on research, strategy and statistical development and statistical programmes especially those related to censuses.

Pali held a number of positions during his tenure as Statistician-General. He served as Co-Chair of PARIS21 and as Chair of the UN Statistics Commission. He was the founding chair of the Statistics Commission of Africa (StatCom Africa) and chaired the African Symposium for Statistical Development (ASSD). He was the Vice President of the International Statistics Institute (ISI) and a sponsor of the Young African Statistician (YAS) movement. He has served on the Independent Expert Advisory Group advising the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on data revolution. He remains on the Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) to the UN Secretary General on the health of mothers, adolescents and children.

Pali's areas of expertise include statistics, including design and implementation of methods, standards and laws in production; dissemination and use of public statistics; statistical advice in public policy; design and dissemination of public numbers for maximum effect; thought-leader in determinants and correlates of political economy of measurement, its applications and constraints.


This event and seminar series was jointly organized with the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the UNDP Human Development Report Office.