Development by Numbers

DRI Working Paper

by Morten Jerven 

How good are the numbers? The availability and quality of key development data is alarmingly low, much worse than usually assumed in exercises based on those data. 

This paper provides a review of the data quality in the most important databases on economic development. It discusses the provenance and quality of the observations in the data sets and equips data users with a guide to judge data quality. The adequacy of the most influential databases is assessed, and the paper furnishes guidance on how to use and how not to use the numbers.