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Comparative Living Standards Project (CLSP)

The Comparative Living Standards Project (CLSP), launched in March 2012, has been developed by the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) to allow access to LSMS survey data in a user-friendly way. It was developed in response to user demand for harmonized and comparable LSMS datasets. The bulk of the analysis carried out using LSMS surveys has been country-specific: the surveys were designed to provide policy-relevant data to governments. But increasingly the data from these surveys, in terms of poverty and inequality measures, are used for comparisons across countries.

The CLSP generates data that can be used: (1) for quick analyses of individual countries and (2) in comparisons across countries using LSMS survey data. LSMS surveys are a set of surveys that were designed to generate country-specific analyses. So the primary objectives for the CLSP are to assure internal consistency among surveys and also to produce all the necessary documentation to ensure the transparency of our work, at the same time, helping users to know exactly what has been done to the data they are planning to use.

Two sets of challenges have been identified in the development of the CLSP that are important for potential users to note.

Internal consistency
Accessibility

Internal consistency

First, there is a pressing need for enhancing the internal consistency of the data and to better document existing inconsistencies, many of which persist. Among LSMS surveys there is already some degree of internal consistency. However, as each survey was developed separately in response to individual country specific needs, there are inconsistencies in the definitions, calculations and coverage of the social indicators.

By generating more comparable indicators, one objective of the CLSP is to improve the quality of cross-country comparative work. It would also open up new areas of research. Of course, there are comparability problems that cannot be eliminated, short of mounting new surveys. The goal of the CLSP is to fully document the harmonization process that has been implemented in the creation of standardized variables from the original LSMS survey data.

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Accessibility

Second, users of micro datasets in the research and policy communities currently face unnecessarily high start-up costs. At present anyone wanting to do, for example, a cross-tabulation of school enrollment rates by level against household income per equivalent single adult for a given country will first have to get access to the micro data, often requiring permission from the statistics office in the country concerned.

Naturally, access to micro data at country level is constrained by the letters of agreement between the Bank and the Governments concerned. These agreements vary from country-to-county. Users currently face transaction costs in obtaining access that can be sizable, particularly for cross-country comparative work. Users face a quite significant skill and technology hurdle; mistakes are to be expected and are common. The entry cost rises more than proportionately if aiming to do cross-country comparisons, such as for a Bank regional report or a central cross-country study, given the heterogeneity of micro data. Yet it is feasible to greatly reduce these access costs to users, thus greatly expanding the potential set of users, while avoiding common sources of error. This requires a reduced, cross-country dataset containing comparable indicators at the micro level that is web based.

The Comparative Living Standards Project (CLSP) aims to provide the most internally consistent and well-documented library of integrated micro-data and basic summary tabulations from LSMS survey data available for developing and transitional countries. The core of CLSP will be an interactive on-demand query system of cross-country household-level datasets that responds to client requests with tables and analyses created by the clients.

CLSP will be a unique effort to create a well-documented, standardized and accessible micro data base for measuring poverty and inequality at the country level. In doing so, the project will meet increasing demand from World Bank staff, governments, and researchers for comparable poverty and inequality measures as well as simple analyses—frequencies, cross-tabulations, and means—on various topics in specific countries and across countries. These clients want the ability to do quick comparisons by poverty group, by gender, by country, by region, and all of the above. Prior clearances will be sought for all datasets to be included in CLSP. This means that a user will not need further clearances unless she wants to go to the original micro data. For many purposes, however, the software available within CLSP will suffice.

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