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Statistical Capacity

Updated: March 30, 2022
  • Statistical Capacity is a nation’s ability to collect, analyse, and disseminate high-quality data about its population and economy.
  • Quality statistics are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making.
  • Data originates from the World Bank World Development Indicators Statistcal Capacity Index.

The quality of national income estimates depends to some extent on the statistical capacity and the resources available to national statistics offices. The United Nations System of National Accounts has put a global standard in place but the challenge for a local national statistics office is to produce a measure of the economy, usually with limited resources. Statistical capacity, or the ability to adhere to the global standard, depends critically on the resources and information available at any given time and place.

All other things being equal, there are a priori grounds to believe that poorer economies will have lower-quality statistics. The statistical capacity and economic resources in national statistics offices therefore matter a great deal in terms of data availability and quality of economic statistics. Data availability is subject to the number of trained staff and the level of resources available for collecting, processing and analysing the data.

As an illustration of the importance of resources in the collection of data, few have shown with greater clarity the nature of the problem than Morten Jerven in his book Poor Numbers, 2013, based on actual visits to statistics offices in Africa. To quote Jerven:

This book has shown that the most basic metric of development , GDP, should not be treated as an objective number but rather as a number that is the product of a process in which a range of arbitrary and controversial assumptions are made. As a result the metric should be used with the utmost care. The quality of this number depends on the state of the system that produces the statistics and this system is deficient in many poor countries.

This problem is not confined to Africa but is evident in countries on all continents.

The score for this component used in the World Economics GDP Data Quality Ratings is derived from the World Bank Statistical Capacity Index. We use this index as a proxy for assessing the availability of economic resources in national statistics offices. In theory, the larger the resources devoted to statistics offices, the better the quality of statistics. This is a proxy measure.