Understanding the data

The aim of the Human Development Report is to stimulate global, regional and national policy-relevant discussions on issues pertinent to human development. Accordingly, the data in the Report require the highest standards of data quality, consistency, international comparability and transparency. The Human Development Report Office (HDRO) fully subscribes to the Principles governing international statistical activities. Several steps are taken each year to ensure that the data published in the Report maintain the highest quality. These steps include consulting and regular communication with national and international statistical agencies, regular meetings with the Statistical Advisory Panel comprising of distinguished national and international statisticians and development economists, academics and selected members of the United Nations Statistical Commission and organizing occasional workshops, expert meetings and conferences.

Nonetheless several data quality issues remain. These include issues of inconsistency and discrepancy between national and international data series. Different timing of updates and revisions of international databases from those of national releases is the main culprit, but also irregular submissions of national data to the mandated UN agencies despite the agreed schedules. In rare occasions there might be differences in applied definitions, classifications or in reference populations across countries. In such a case the responsible international agency could opt to harmonize such data to the metadata adopted for the particular indicator. International cooperation is improving these deficiencies and HDRO is an active participant in the process, bringing these issues to light in the global report and seeking resolution from the relevant agencies.

Select writings on issues of statistical methodology that serve as the theoretical background for the measurement of human development are accessible in the HDRO library. These are background papers from different editions of the Report that highlight important measurement issues, major international initiatives and also innovative ways of measuring human development. Technical notes about computation of human development composite indices are also available at the HDRO data pages. Technical notes associated with the previous Reports can be found on the pages for these Reports that are accessible through the HDRO library.

All the sources of the data used and the contact information for the major statistical agencies are given in Sources of data used. Also, for each indicator in the Statistical annex and in the online data tool, the sources of data are presented together with definitions and relevant notes.