Visibility of children's issues in household surveys

Data sets on children: National and international surveys

Reliable and up-to-date statistical information is needed for research and monitoring of child well-being. Across countries, varying data sources promote understanding of the socio-economic conditions affecting children. These sources include administrative data derived from vital registration systems, household surveys, censuses and specialized child surveys.

Household Budget Surveys are a key source for monitoring and analysing socio-economic conditions and for understanding the impact of public policies on the well-being of society. When those surveys are carried out frequently and routinely, they are particularly useful, and the data collected is an invaluable tool in conducting child-centred research.

However, different research experiences − including recent studies conducted by UNICEF IRC – have highlighted significant limitations in the current survey design for collecting information relevant to the situation of children. Often issues regarding children have low visibility in the surveys. A greater focus on children would potentially increase the survey capacity to provide information on household well-being, decision-making and the impact of policies and background characteristics on socio-economic outcomes.

There is still much work to be done in making children more prominent in household surveys. There is a need to utilize existing data-collection tools to analyse the issues affecting them and promote their well-being. Such data can increase the knowledge base on the contexts in which children live and help assess the relevance of policies. The result will be improved quality and usability of data for future research and more effective programme design and implementation.

Technical Consultation, ‘Making Children Visible in Routine Surveys’, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, Italy, 26-27 July 2007

In July 2007, UNICEF IRC convened a technical consultation to discuss the visibility of children in household budget surveys and more generally in household surveys such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), other specialized surveys and censuses. The consultation covered the need for data to assess themes such as vulnerability and child poverty, child work, children and migration and children’s access to social services. The consultation was organized to promote dialogue between survey analysis and design, to better identify and understand the existing data gaps in analysing child well-being and to discuss the feasibility of collecting this additional data.

Enhancing children’s visibility and using existing data tools to obtain additional and more relevant data on their lives is possible and worthwhile. However, a first step must be better use of current data in order to analyse child well-being. This requires a broad assessment and evaluation of how well existing survey tools provide relevant information. Other areas for exploration include how surveys like DHS and MICS influence routine data collection – both data needs and data-collection practices – in the countries where they have been implemented; and a reflection on the framework that informs child-specific data collection in the current round of censuses.

Relevant UNICEF IRC publications

Reinvesting in Children? Policies for the very young in South Eastern Europe and the CIS, Stewart, Kitty and Carmen Huerta, Innocenti Working Paper (IWP) 2006-01.

Child Consumption Poverty in South-Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Menchini, Leonardo and Gerry Redmond, Innocenti Working Paper (IWP) 2006-04.

Innocenti Social Monitor 2006: Understanding Child Poverty in South-Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.


Meeting report summary


Introduction to the consultation
Leonardo Menchini

Population census and data on children
Grace Bediako

Household Budget Surveys and children in South-Eastern Europe and the CIS
Leonardo Menchini

Surveys on children: MICS
Gareth Jones

Surveys on children in Kyrgyzstan
Shamsia Ibragimova

Vulnerability, investigating the threat of child poverty
Stefan Dercon

International migration and children
Edilberto Loaiza

Capturing access to public services
Claudia Cappa

Updated April 2008