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Improving the pathway from school to STEM careers for girls and women

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture

The launch of the Human Capital Project has galvanized global action to close human capital gaps, and has highlighted the importance of investments in the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, to realize their potential as productive members of society.

Improving both the quantity and quality of education is pivotal to empowering young people to fulfill their potential. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is critical not only for fulfilling the needs of the future workforce, but also for producing researchers and innovators who can help to solve intractable challenges.

The underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM gets a lot of attention, but the data on access to, and quality of, education shows that the story is more nuanced.

At primary school level globally, there is gender parity in both enrollment and completion–a remarkable achievement of recent times. Gender gaps emerge in a number of low-income countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some Latin American countries there are ‘reverse’ gender gaps (with boys less likely to attend or complete primary school). Overall, gender gaps (where they exist) are modest in comparison to the gaps between rich and low-income countries.

When it comes to academic performance, girls often do as well as, or better than, boys in science and mathematics.

In primary schools, there are no gender differences in science achievement in more than half of the 47 countries where performance is measured (Figure 1). Girls score higher than boys in 26 percent of the countries. The difference in achievement is almost three-times higher when girls score more than boys compared to when boys score more than girls. Results for mathematics achievement are similar. There are no gender differences in about half of the countries with data, but boys score better than girls in 37 percent of the countries.

Figure 1: Primary-school girls perform as well as boys in science and mathematics

Source: TIMSS 2015 Assessment Frameworks. Data for 4th graders in 47 countries. Box plots show the first quartile, median and third quartile of the test scores. The whiskers correspond to the minimum and maximum scores. Outliers are represented by a dot.

What’s an ambitious but realistic target for human capital progress?

Zelalem Yilma Debebe's picture

Globally, 56 percent of children live in countries with Human Capital Index (HCI) scores below 0.5. As these countries gear up to improve their human capital outcomes, it is vital to set a target that is ambitious enough to prompt action and realistic enough to be achieved. One way to get at this is to examine the historical rate of progress that countries demonstrated to be possible.

Using time-series data between 2000 and 2017, we estimated countries' progress in the health components of HCI (fraction of children not stunted, child survival and adult survival) using a non-linear regression model. [1] Our measure of progress is the fraction of gap to the frontier that is eliminated every year- the frontier being 100 percent child and adult survival, and no stunting.,[2]

We address the following two questions:

  1. What is the typical progress in the health components of HCI observed globally?

7 data innovation projects win funding to tackle local challenges

World Bank Data Team's picture

How can data be used to improve disease outbreak warning, urban planning, air quality, or agricultural production? Seven winning projects, which will receive support from the third round of funding for collaborative data innovation projects, do just that and more.

Following the success of the first round of funding in 2017 and the second round of funding in 2018 the World Bank’s Development Data Group and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched the Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development Fund’s third round in June 2018.

This round called for ideas that had an established proof of concept that benefited local decision-making. We were looking for projects that fostered synergies, and collaborations that took advantage of the relative strengths and responsibilities of official and non-official actors in the data ecosystem.

Half of the world’s poor live in just 5 countries

Roy Katayama's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Of the world’s 736 million extreme poor in 2015, 368 million—half of the total—lived in just 5 countries. The 5 countries with the highest number of extreme poor are (in descending order): India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. They also happen to be the most populous countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions that together account for 85 percent (629 million) of the world’s poor. Therefore, to make significant continued progress towards the global target of reducing extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day) to less than 3 percent by 2030, large reductions in poverty in these five countries will be crucial.

Women and migration: Exploring the data

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture

International Migrants Day is a call to disseminate information on international migration and look toward further understanding its intersection with economic growth and socioeconomic wellbeing. Here we draw on data from the World Bank Gender Data Portal to highlight four big facts about women AND international migration. We focus on the “international migrant stock” which is the number of people born in a country other than that in which they live. Women, men, boys and girls experience migration differently. Accurate and timely sex-disaggregated data on international migration is critical for uncovering the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and men and for shaping migration policy.

Globally, women are on the move: they comprise slightly less than half of all international, global migrants. In fact, the share of women among global, international migrants has only fallen slightly during the last three decades, from 49 percent in 1990 to 47 percent in 2017.

Shared Prosperity: A challenging but important goal to monitor

Judy Yang's picture

Shared prosperity is one of the World Bank Group’s Twin Goals, introduced in 2013. Progress toward this goal is monitored through an indicator that measures the annualized growth rate in average household per capita income or consumption among the poorest 40 percent of the population in each country (the bottom 40), where the bottom 40 are determined by their rank in household per capita income or consumption. Chapter 2 of the 2018 Poverty & Shared Prosperity Report provides an update on the recent mixed progress on shared prosperity around the world in about 2010-15.

The shared prosperity indicator was proposed as a means to shine a constant light on the poorest segments of the population in every country, irrespective of their level of development. Shared prosperity has no target or finish line, because the aim is to continuously improve well-being. In good times and in bad, in low and high-income economies alike, the bottom 40 percent of the population in each nation would be monitored. Tracking the bottom 40’s absolute growth as well as their growth relative to the mean is a way to remind us to always consider distributional impacts and strive for equitable outcomes.

An important but challenging goal to monitor

Despite its importance and universal relevance, shared prosperity is more challenging to monitor than global poverty. While one household survey is sufficient to calculate poverty, shared prosperity measurement requires two recent comparable surveys.

The implication of this stronger data requirement is that 91 out of the 164 economies with an international poverty rate measured in PovcalNet are included in the 6th edition of the Global Database of Shared Prosperity (GDSP).

Mapping for sustainable development: The Open Data for Resilience Mapathon

Lorenzo Piccio's picture

On Wednesday, November 14, we joined more than 170 volunteers at the World Bank’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to draw little red boxes on a map of Alajo—a small town in the coastal metropolis of Accra, Ghana.

Some might find tracing a map of a city 8,500 kilometers away to be a surprising way to spend an afternoon, but there are good reasons for it. The boxes represented buildings, and they will go on to become invaluable geospatial data that will help the residents of Accra prepare for and respond to flood risk. Home to over two million people, Ghana’s capital city is highly vulnerable to flooding. In 2015, torrential rainfall left much of the city underwater—affecting 53,000 people and causing an estimated US$100 million in damages.

In just a little over two hours, the volunteers made over 3,000 edits to the map of Alajo, complementing the work of local teams in Ghana that are leading data collection efforts in the field. Once validated by more experienced mappers, the data collected will help guide improvements to Accra’s solid waste disposal management system, and also inform the upgrading of settlements vulnerable to flooding.

Open Cities Africa: Collaborative mapping to build resilient societies

More than money: Counting poverty in multiple forms

Dhiraj Sharma's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français

Consider two households that have the same level of consumption (or income) per person but they differ in the following ways. All the children in the first household go to school, while the children in the second household work to support the family. The first household obtains drinking water from a tap connected to the public distribution network, whereas the second household fetches water from a nearby stream. At night, the first home is illuminated with electricity, whereas the second home is dark. A lay person would easily recognize which of these two families is better off. Yet, traditional measures of household well-being would put the two households on par because conventionally, household well-being has been measured using consumption (or income).

Introducing the online guide to the World Development Indicators: A new way to discover data on development

World Bank Data Team's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | 中文 | Français

The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the World Bank’s premier compilation of international statistics on global development. Drawing from officially recognized sources and including national, regional, and global estimates, the WDI provides access to almost 1,600 indicators for 217 economies, with some time series extending back more than 50 years. The database helps users—analysts, policymakers, academics, and all those curious about the state of the world—to find information related to all aspects of development, both current and historical.

An annual World Development Indicators report was available in print or PDF format until last year. This year, we introduce the World Development Indicators website: a new discovery tool and storytelling platform for our data which takes users behind the scenes with information about data coverage, curation, and methodologies. The goal is to provide a useful, easily accessible guide to the database and make it easy for users to discover what type of indicators are available, how they’re collected, and how they can be visualized to analyze development trends.

So, what can you do on the new World Development Indicators website?

1. Explore available indicators by theme

The indicators in the WDI are organized according to six thematic areas: Poverty and Inequality, People, Environment, Economy, States and Markets, and Global Links. Each thematic page provides an overview of the type of data available, a list of featured indicators, and information about widely used methodologies and current data challenges.

Behind Closed Doors: how traditional measures of poverty mask inequality inside the household and a new look at possible solutions

Caren Grown's picture

During the days coming up to, and after October 17, when many stories, numbers, and calls for action will mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we want to invite you to think for a second on what you imagine a poor household to be like. Is this a husband, wife, and children, or maybe an elderly couple? Are the children girls or boys? And more importantly, do all experience the same deprivations and challenges from the situation they live in?  In a recent blog post and paper, we showed that looking at who lives in poor homes—from gender differences to household composition more broadly—matters  to better understand and tackle poverty.

Globally, female and male poverty rates—defined as the share of women and men who live in poor households—are very similar (12.8 and 12.3 percent, respectively, based on 2013 data). Even in the two regions with the largest number of poor people (and highest poverty rates)—South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—gender differences in poverty rates are quite small. This is true for the regions, but also for individual countries, irrespective of their share of poor people. Why is that the case? As Chapter 5 of the 2018 Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report explains, our standard monetary poverty indicator is measured by household, not by individual. So, a person is classified as either poor or nonpoor according to the poverty status of the household in which she or he lives. This approach critically assumes everyone in the household shares equally in household consumption—be they a father, a young child, or a daughter-in-law.  By design, it thus masks differences in individual poverty within a household.

Notwithstanding this shortcoming, when we look a bit deeper the information we have today still shows visible gender differences in poverty rates. Take age, for example. We know that there are more poor children than poor adults, and while we do not find that poverty rates differ much between girls and boys at the early stages of life, stark differences appear between men and women during the peak productive and reproductive years.

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