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International Data

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The OECD is an international organization of thirty nations and is the best source of comparable international social indicator data for the world’s developed democracies. The data include a broad range of economic indicators, government finance and program statistic s, and education and health care data. Most convenient are the data provided through the SourceOECD website, a subscription service available through many colleges and universities, in predefined spreadsheet tables or in tables created through an interactive database query. The OECD provides free access to “frequently requested data” and the data contained in its main statistical reports (The OECD in Figures, The OECD Factbook, Society at a Glance, and Education at a Glance) through OECD.Stat, the OECD’s central data warehouse at

See also: OECD's Index of Statistical Variables and Frequently requested statistics

OECD Economic Outlook No. 87 Annex Tables

World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations are primary sources of international financial, trade, social, and economic development indicators. Each provides some data concerning its own programs, such as IMF lending and financial data, and the organizations share much of the economic data. Although the United Nations data are freely accessible, the World Bank and IMF charge fees for access to some of their databases.

For data on developing countries, the World Bank provides for online queries of an archive of Millennium Development Goal indicators, international poverty estimates, and its World Development Indicator database. The IMF provides access to the same data and data on international trade and commodity prices at The United Nations Statistics Division provides access to data from three of its annual publications: Demographic Yearbook, Population and Vital Statistics Report, and Human Development Report. The Human Development Report database contains the most comprehensive set of indicators.

Be warned that for many indicators on developing nations, particularly African nations, many of the social indicator data series have a great deal of missing data.

EarthTrends Searchable database

"EarthTrends is a comprehensive online database, maintained by the World Resources Institute, that focuses on the environmental, social, and economic trends that shape our world." The searchable database allows you to select from a large number of variables on many topics, countries by category and years. The data are downloadable as Excel files (before downloading select the "reverse years" option.)


Public Opinion Polling Data

The Survey Documentation and Analysis center at the University of California, Berkeley, provides online database queries from two time series surveys, the American National Election Studies (ANES), and the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey. The ANES, conducted every two years since 1948, contains a broad set of public opinion and political behavior questions asked in the biennial pre- and postelection surveys. The General Social survey, conducted annually from 1972 to 1994 and biennially from 1994 to 2004, contains a wide range of social, political, behavioral, and demographic questions. To construct time series indicators from these datasets using the center’s interface (, create a table by selecting “year” as the row variable and the relevant survey question as the column variable, specifying row percentages. The online query system also allows users to recode variables and to create demographic and other breakdowns of the questions.

Major polling organizations usually maintain online archives of at least the aggregate response tallies to questions asked in most of their regularly administered polls. For the most part, however, the organizations provide only limited public access to their data and require paid subscriptions to access the full archive. Of these, the Gallup organization’s archive provides access to the longest running and most comprehensive set of polls, often in a convenient time series format. Over one hundred American universities and colleges provide their students free access to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives containing polling data from twenty-seven polling organizations in the form of question-level responses, some time series or “trended” survey response data, and raw datasets. More universities subscribe to the LexisNexis® Academic Universe, which provides single question response data from a similar polling archive.

For online access to international surveys, see Political Participation in the following section on international data sources.

Notes on Data Sources Used in this Book

International Data

  • Corruption
  • (figure 6.2) Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is compiled from surveys conducted by other organizations of international businesspeople and regional and country experts. Transparency International also sponsors its own public survey on corruption in sixty-nine countries to calculate the Global Corruption Barometer, and surveys businesses in exporting countries to construct the Bribes-Payer Index. Related cross-national indicators, employing a similar methodology, are Freedom House’s annual index (since 1973) of political rights and civil liberties and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, an annual index (since 1995) based on measures of ten “economic freedoms” related to taxation, protection of private property, and economic regulation. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is one of the ten measures.
  • Education
  • (figures 5.1–5.3 and tables 5.1–5.3). The United States participates in several international educational achievement studies: the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, and the OECD’s Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey. Each of these studies has its own website, but the U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics provides a single site containing the corss national data for each of the surveys and evaluations of the survey methodology and data reliability. Generally, the data consist of both the national scores on the assessment tests and data on family background, student behavior, and school characteristics. The OECD’s annual publication Education at a Glance summarizes the results of the international tests and provides data on a variety of indicators related to school conditions, staffing, and finance.
  • Global Warming
  • (figure 3.24) The Goddard Institute for Space Studies data on global temperature anomalies is the most commonly cited evidence in the debates over global warming. The data are derived from worldwide meteorological station temperature records since the 1880s. The data measure departures from the normal monthly temperature at each station and are adjusted to account for localized urban warming, date, and time of day. (see .txt datafile here)

    The National Climatic Data Center at provides the most extensive collection of global and regional weather data, including long-term reconstructions of historical temperature data, based on tree-ring analysis, and other methods. Data on CO2 concentrations can be obtained from the Global Monitoring Division (formerly CMDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • Health Expenditures
  • (figure 1.4 and table 1.1) These data were obtained from the OECD’s central data warehouse at OECD Health Care 2009 provides and excellent interactive database for OECD countries. More recent data:
    • Health - other

    The World Health Organization's annual World Health Statistics 2008 is an excellent source on global health topics. For an interactive health care database: WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS)

    OECD Health Care 2009 provides and excellent interactive database for OECD countries.

  • Millennium Development Goals
  • (table 6.1) The World Bank’s Global Data Monitoring Information System provides for online queries of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) database and the United Nations provides for a similar data query of the forty-eight MDG indicators.
  • Political Participation
  • (figures 4.1, 4.2) Since 1986, the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) has conducted annual cross-national surveys (for as many as thirty-nine nations) on topical issues including citizen participation, the environment, religion, social inequality, gender roles, and the role of government. The data in figure 4.2 were obtained using the site’s online cross-tabular analysis of the survey data. To calculate country-level measures, cross-tabulate the country code id against a substantive variable. The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) provides for similar online queries of cross-national national election surveys (including ANES 2004 data for the United States) for most of the OECD members, and a few other nations. At this writing, the site provides online tabulation only for election surveys conducted from 1996 to 2001. For similar general cross-national survey data, see the World Values Survey website.
  • Poverty—Developing Nations
  • (figures 6.1, 6.2, 6.3) The $1 and $2 a day poverty indicators are contained in the MDG database, but the World Bank also provides somewhat more flexible database query access to regional and national poverty measures through its PovcalNet website.
  • Poverty—Wealthy Nations
  • (figures 3.10, 6.4) The Luxembourg Income Survey compiles a variety of cross-national indicators related to income inequality and poverty using an archive of national income surveys obtained from thirty nations. It also provides cross-national data on wealth and characteristics of national social welfare programs.
  • Voter Turnout and Election Systems
  • (table 4.1) The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) websiteis a good source of cross-national turnout data and information about national election systems, but the data have not yet been updated for elections after 2001. The IDEA also provides data on women’s electoral participation and representation in national legislatures. The Administration and Cost of Elections Project provides a very comprehensive global survey of national election systems, including procedures for redistricting, voter registration, and vote counting.