Guidelines for the harmonising of census and survey microdata released


Measurement of progress against development indicators, and evaluation of policy, requires the production of data that allow the computation of comparable statistics and indicators over time. In order to compare the efficacy of policy and for targeted development intervention in the Pacific region, it’s not only important that data production and indicators are comparable over time, it’s also important that they’re comparable across space.

SPC, its development partners and the statistical agencies of the Pacific region have made significant progress in ex ante statistical collection standardisation initiatives. This includes standardisation of methods and instruments for specific statistical collections, but also standardisation across statistical collections. For example, most recent censuses and household income and expenditure surveys conducted in the Pacific region have adopted the same labour and education questionnaires and they’ve often collected and processed the data using the same statistical software. This presents opportunity for the calculation of comparable labour market and education indicators over time, across statistical collection and space.

Whilst significant progress has been made in ex ante statistical collection standardisation, the opportunity to prepare harmonised dataset ex post statistical collections has not been exploited. Harmonised datasets – datasets that are structurally the same, stored in the same format and utilise the same variable name, coding and classification conventions – present an opportunity for rapid analysis of Pacific development microdata to produce comparable indicators over time and across different statistical collections (i.e., time series of indicators that are comparable across census and surveys), and across space (i.e., comparison of development indicators across SPC members). Commonly structured and coded microdata facilitates efficient analysis as analysis processes undertaken for one dataset can be applied across all harmonised datasets; it will also allow SPC to be more efficient in response to data user requests for regionally comparable statistics and in providing data to various data dissemination platforms, such as PopGIS and dotstat.

To facilitate the production of ex post statistical collection microdata harmonisation, SPC had developed guidelines and a series of instruments to facilitate harmonisation of census and survey microdata. The guidelines focus on 15 Pacific Island countries and territories and 28 censuses and household income and expenditure survey datasets. The guidelines and instruments include:

  1. guidelines for the harmonisation of census and survey microdata;
  2. a database of topics that are common across census and household income and expenditure survey;
  3. a data dictionary, which includes a list of harmonised variables, their label and codes; and
  4. a translation for every harmonised variable and all 28 datasets that have been prioritised in the microdata harmonisation initiatives.

We would like to acknowledge Abimbola Sylvester Young and Jolly Mae Catalan, independent consultants, who drafted the guidelines and prepared the dictionary and translation tables. We would also like to acknowledge Mike Sharp, Scott Pontifex and Olivier Menaouer, Pacific Community, and Olivier Dupriez, World Bank, who contributed to the production of the guidelines and translation tables, and conceptualised the harmonisation initiative. Finally, we acknowledge the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building which provided financial support to SPC for the development of the guidelines.

Download the Guidelines for the harmonisation of census and survey microdata.