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What can internationally comparable quantitative data tell us about how gender norms are changing?


Written by Paola Pereznieto

​This Research and practice note outlines how standardised national surveys, opinion data and administrative data from developing countries, collected at regular intervals, can reveal important information about how gender norms affect adolescent girls, and whether prevailing norms are changing.

Developing country governments regularly collect nationally representative data relevant to gender norms in the form of three major household surveys: the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey; the Demographic and Health Survey; and the Living Standards Measurement Study. Because most countries collect data every few years, indicators from these surveys can provide useful insights for development policy-makers and practitioners about how gender norms are changing. This Research and Practice Note describes the main data available to help identify how gender norms are changing in a given country or context. It looks at the usefulness of data from three main sources: the regular household surveys already mentioned; opinion or perception surveys; and administrative data collected by governments at different levels (such as region, district, zone or village).

The note explores how survey data can be useful for understanding trends in gender norms, exploring links between attitudes, practices and social and demographic characteristics, and making comparisons across countries and regions. It also acknowledges the limitations of using such data, such as the failure of surveys, in some contexts, to reflect girls’ own attitudes, to capture local nuances and to include information from the most marginalised groups and communities, for example, those living in remote or conflict-affected areas.

With a comprehensive list of links to the surveys outlined and related literature, this note provides an insight into how internationally comparable quantitative data can be used effectively by policymakers, development practitioners and evaluators.

Paola Pereznieto