It’s all about the data.

I spend solid parts of my days at work looking through databases for information, compiling data for different indicators, and occasionally trying to make predictions about what will happen in the future for select developing countries where USAID works. We’ve been creating an internal ready-reference of many of the common indicators we use, compiling all available Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), Reproductive Health Survey (RHS), and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data points, to make our lives a bit easier when quick-turnover requests come in.

I was flattered when I was talking to a woman from USAID during a presentation hosted by the Knowledge Management team, and she noted how interesting it would be to have that kind of reference available for the individuals in her technical area, who commonly turn to Statcompiler (more info to come) for data.  Other friends have come to me asking about data sources for projects of theirs, and, to be honest, I wasn’t even aware many of the data sources I use on a daily basis were available before starting this job.

So, to put everything in one place, here are different databases for development data, from health statistics to funding to all-purpose clearinghouses. Some I use daily in my job, some I was introduced to today in a presentation with individuals from the USAID Economic Analysis and Data Services team, and others I have come across in passing.

What I use at work (and would probably be best able to answer questions about):

Statcompiler – Quick reference tool with all DHS indicators. You can use this to grab a quick snapshot of health, education, and other social indicators collected in DHS surveys. Select RHS, AIS, and MIS survey is also included; where these data sources are used, they are included in a footnote. Use the “Build a Table” tool rather than the “Express Viewer”; for some reason, there are occasional data accuracy issues when using the Express Viewer. And do read the footnotes; you may find that the age of the sample, or the time frame, changes for some countries, which you should note in your data analysis.

DHS Report List – If you want to check actual DHS reports for data, go here. For most older reports (2005 and earlier) you can choose to download PDFs of individual chapters, rather than downloading the entire massive PDF of the full report (which is often upwards of 300-400 pages).

DOLPHN (Data Online for Population, Health, and Nutrition) – Contains data for health indicators, including both WHO and DHS data. Has most health indicators that might be of interest.

World Bank Open Data Initiative – If the World Bank collects it, or someone related to/connected to the WB collects it, it’s probably here. You can access economic, funding, health, employment, education, and other data, as well as information about multiple indices.

UNICEF Child Info – Contains many data points from State of the Worlds Children, MICS, and other data sources used or compiled by UNICEF. Great source for nutrition information and vaccination information not collected by the DHS (HiB, for example).

Micronutrient Initiative – We use this source for data on maternal anemia, though other data is available. Pretty self explanatory.

Aid Data – A beta version of a database meant to pool all funding flows in a central location. Note that the USG has limited how much of their funding data was available, so you might be able to find more program-specific funding information for other countries’ aid agencies than for USAID.

Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) – The largest available database of technical and program documents that USAID has. You can download a ton of PDFs here, but there isn’t a user-friendly interface of funding flows or an easy way to break out numbers by country or region.

The available databases maintained by the Economic Analysis and Data Services office (which I haven’t used as often, but the links are pretty self explanatory):

(USAID token required) Economic Analysis and Data Services

(USAID token required) Economic and Social Database

US Official Development Assistance Database – latest available data is 2008

US Overseas Loans and Grants – “Greenbook”, latest available data is 2008; lists the funding obligation instead of the amount disbursed or appropriated

Development Stats for Latin America and the Caribbean

Global Education Database – created by special request; includes UNESCO and DHS data, as well as select analytic tools

Note that there are data we have had perennial problems finding (and if you have any suggestions, please pass them along). Ever looked for funding flows for a specific indicator? Pretty difficult to find. Or even up-to-date funding information about how much money is being channeled into select projects. Select countries also have limited data; for example, Liberia had a DHS survey in 1986, and the next survey was conducted in 2007. Makes it hard to see what kind of incremental changes are happening over time. Note that DHS surveys are typically conducted every 5 years, though there is an experiment with a continuous survey in Peru right now, and some have done the data collection more frequently.

If you have additional data sources you know of, please leave them as a comment and add to the growing list. I know this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything out there, but it’s a great start if you’re looking for development data! And remember, data doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how to use it properly!

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