Guide to World Social Indices

In addition to the field studies which are at the heart of many sociology research projects, access to ‘official social book-keeping’ and other contextual data can be helpful. Since countries differ in their arrangements attention only to international sources is covered here. The availability of information fluid and dynamic so only more institutionalised sources are covered and only for the contemporary period.

Care is required in the use of sources since they vary in terms of coverage of countries, quality of data, time-depth, up-to-datedness, map (display) ability, visualisations, downloadability, ability to re-weight and other characteristics. Some of the data is presented as ‘league tables’ ranking countries on various criteria which may have built-in complexities which limit their more scientific use.

There is a ‘life-cycle’ of information processing and agencies can be variously involved as Producers, retailers, wholesalers, storage archivists etc., often in multiple roles. Accordingly the table below is organised from data producers to those more involved in holding socially-relevant information.

More socially pertinent data now becoming more prevalent compared to earlier concentrations on demographic, economic and political attributes, together with social bookkeeping (education, health etc.). Survey data becoming more available although some of this must be bought. Sources covering demographic, economic, environmental and political information are not particularly included.

In addition to country-level data there are more focused indices and some which focus on other units (e.g. regions, cities) and a small selection of these is provided towards the bottom of the table.



Abbreviated Title



MacroData Guide   NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data
Overview of Comparative Surveys Worldwide   GESIS: Germany
Data Sources, QOG   Quality of Government Institute
Research Resources for the Social Sciences   McGraw-Hill
Resources   International Institute of Social Studies
Survey of International Social Surveys, ISSC   International Social Science Council

Demographic and Social Book-keeping Data

Luxemburg Income/Wealth Databases   LIS, (formerly The Luxembourg Income Study)
OECD Statistics   OECD
Census Microdata IPUMS International [Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, International]
ILO KILM Data   International Labor Organisation
International Time Series Data UK Data Service    
UN data   UN
World Bank data   World Bank
Uppsala Conflict Data Program   Uppsala University
World Factbook   CIA
The World Top Incomes Database WID The World Wealth and Income Database


Good Country Index GCI Simon Anholt
Quality of Nationality Index GNI H&P Henley & Partners
Gross National Happiness/Well-Being GNH/GNW GNH Institute
Happy Planet Index HPI New Economics Foundation (NEF)
Human Development Index HDI UNP
Legatum Prosperity Index LPI Legatum Institute, a division of the private investment firm Legatum
Millenium development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals MDG/SDG UN
Indices of Social Development ISD World Bank
QOG Basic/Standard Datasets   Quality of Government Institute
Social Progress Index SPI  
Sustainable Society Index SSI Sustainable Society Foundation – SSF
OECD Better Life Index BLI OECD
Where-to-be-born Index   The Economist Intelligence Unit
World Happiness Report WHR The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was commissioned by UN

Survey Research

Barometers GBS  
Comparative Study of Electoral Systems CSES Comparative Study of Electoral Systems
Gallup World Poll   Gallup
Voice of the People   Gallup International
ISSP   International Social Survey Program
Pew Research Center    
World Values Survey    

Expert Surveys

Quality of Government Institute
The Global Risks Report   World Economic Forum

Data Archives

Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives CESSDA  

Data Retailing

World Data Atlas    
Our World in Data    

Particular Groupings

Global Age Watch Index   Global Agewatch
Kids Rights   KidsRights Foundation
Minorities at Risk MAR Uni. Maryland
Global Liveability Ranking [Cities]   Economist Intelligence Unit
The Global Slavery Index   Walk Free Foundation
Ethnologue   SIL International
Mercer Quality of Living Rankings (Cities)   Mercer
The World Religion Database   The Association of Religions Data Archives

Prepared by Professor Charles Crothers