Published on Let's Talk Development

Tracking Tanzania’s progress: The latest National Panel Survey is available

This page in:
In Tanzania, 76 percent of the general population were literate in 2021, exhibiting a six-percentage point increase from 2015. © Sarah Farhat / World Bank In Tanzania, 76 percent of the general population were literate in 2021, exhibiting a six-percentage point increase from 2015. © Sarah Farhat / World Bank

Nationally representative longitudinal surveys — if done well — can positively impact development policies.  The Tanzania National Panel Survey (NPS) is one such example. By tracking the same households over time, the NPS collects information on household living standards, including consumption expenditure, access to social services and infrastructure, income generating activities, farm practices at the plot level, among others. The only survey of its kind, the NPS has been used to inform evidence-based policies in Tanzania for the last 15 years. 

The Living Standards Measurement Study team at the World Bank recently released the latest data of the National Panel Survey together with the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The sample design looks at four analytical strata in Tanzania across the 15 years including Dar es Salaam, Other Urban Areas in Mainland, Rural Areas in Mainland and Zanzibar. Since its inception in 2008, five rounds of the NPS have been successfully conducted, with the most recent conducted in 2020–21.  

What is good about longitudinal surveys?

The longitudinal nature of the NPS allows us to examine dynamics in key welfare and sociodemographic indicators of the same households, which is not possible for repeated cross-sectional household surveys. The report of the latest round of the NPS contains detailed analysis of household level indicators on living standards, as well as changes that have occurred between the fourth wave (2014–15) and the latest wave (2020–21). Here is a quick recap of the key findings:


The average household size is 4.7 members, a number that remained stable between 2014–15 and 2020–21 and continues to be slightly larger in rural than in urban areas, 5.0 and 4.1 members, respectively. Women head one in every four households in the country.

A bar chart showin the Distribution of Household Heads by Sex


Results from the NPS show an increase in enrollment and literacy rates in Tanzania.  About 76 percent of Tanzanians were literate in 2020–21, compared to 70 percent in 2014–15, exhibiting improvements across all levels. The most significant improvement in net enrolment was observed in secondary schools, with an increase of almost 15 percentage points reaching 39 percent in 2020–21. This, however, remains less than half the average of lower middle-income countries and even slightly below the average for low-income countries. Moreover, efforts are still needed to ensure education for all, especially in rural areas where 3 in 10 school-age children 7 to 13 cannot yet read and write.

A bar chart showing Figure 2. Letracy Rate for General Population and Youth by Sex

Clean water and sanitation

Access to safe and clean water and sanitation showed exceptional improvements.  During the rainy season in 2020–21, 49.5 percent of households in Tanzania had access to clean drinking water compared to 46.5 percent of households in 2014–15. In addition, more than four in ten households, or 44 percent, had access to improved sanitation facilities in 2020–21, an increase from 25 percent in 2014–15.

A bar chart showing Figure 3. Proportion of households with access to basic imporved sanitation facilities

Health and nutrition of children

Substantial progress was also made in improving the health and nutrition of children in Tanzania.  At the national level, stunting for children under 5 years decreased by 2.6 percentage points between 2014–15 and 2020–21. The data shows a disparity across rural and urban areas; in urban areas, only 22 percent of children were stunted compared to 34.2 percent in the rural areas.

In addition, there were significant improvements in births attended by skilled workers; while only 69.6 percent of births were in hospitals in 2014–15, this figure jumped by 15 percentage points to 85 percent in 2020-21.

Food security

There has been steady progress in the economic and social development of Tanzania.  Remarkable improvements in food security were also made in rural areas of the country and for the poorest population — the two groups that historically have not benefited from such improvements. The NPS results show that between 2014–15 and 2020–21, the population in the lowest welfare quintile who were food insecure fell from 34 percent to 21 percent, marking a decrease of 13 percentage points compared to just 2 percentage points for those in the top quintile.

“The National Panel Survey has been used to inform evidence-based policies in Tanzania for the last 15 years.”


NPS results indicate that agricultural intensification is happening gradually as the use of productivity enhancing inputs like organic fertilizer, inorganic fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and improved seeds all increased marginally between 2014–15 and 2020–21. The share of farming households that used any type of fertilizer increased from 32 percent in 2014–15 to 37 percent in 2020–21, while the use of improved seeds remained stable. Access to agricultural extension services appears to be limited in Tanzania, evidenced by a decrease from 3 percent to 2 percent in the share of farming households accessing extension services. This is one area that the government and development partners need to focus on because access to quality extension services is a key driver of agricultural productivity.

A diagram showing households using fertilizer, seeds and pesticides in Tanzania

Lastly, the survey finds a consistent increase in the average yields of maize and paddy between 2014–15 and 2020–21.

A chart showing Avergage Yielsd of Maize and Paddy by type of plot in Tanzania


Akuffo Amankwah

Economist, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Darcey Johnson

Consultant, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Maryam Gul

Consultant, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Amparo Palacios-Lopez

Senior Economist, Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS), World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000