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Qatar Supreme Council for Family Affairs Database of Social IndicatorsFinal Report
By Lynn A. Karoly Michael Mattock
Rand CorporationCopyright © 2006 RAND Corporation
All right reserved.
The Qatar Supreme Council for Family Affairs (QSCFA) was established in 1998. The QSCFA is under the authority of His Highness the Emir and works in collaboration and coordination with the cabinet, the ministries, public corporations, and various councils and institutions. The QSCFA's vision is stated as follows:
The Council aspires to see a Qatari family that is strong, coherent, stable, self-reliant, and proud of its Arab Islamic culture and identity. A family that is aware of its duties and responsibilities, whose members enjoy good health. A family unit that participates actively in building a society that is productive, open to the rest of the world and enjoys a stable and prosperous life. (QSCFA, undated brochure, p. 11)
To achieve this vision, the QSCFA is charged with reviewing and proposing legislation, promoting policies, adopting plans, implementing projects and programs, enhancing the role of national institutions, and disseminating information related to all aspects of family affairs in Qatar.
In support of its mission, the QSCFA maintains a series of nine goals, which are summarized in Table 1.1. These goals pertain to the role and care of families, the challenges facing families, the goals of international charters relating to family matters, theempowerment and participation of women in society and the labor market, the status of people with special needs, and the challenges facing youth.
This mission is achieved through six operating departments that focus on specific populations in Qatar: the family, women, children, youth, the elderly, and people with special needs. For each of these groups, a department within the QSCFA is tasked with reviewing programs and policies, developing plans for new activities, and implementing programs and monitoring their progress. Each department also has a corresponding committee of the Board of Directors. Table 1.1 shows the link between the nine goals and six departments, indicating that several goals have broad applicability to all departments, while others are central to only one department.
In support of its vision and specific goals, the QSCFA is developing a social indicators database system of which a prototype has already been developed. The database will help assess the well-being of families in Qatar and will provide essential information for planning for future activities, monitoring progress against departmental goals, and setting policy priorities. Since the mission of the QSCFA spans a diverse array of issues and there are multiple sources of data, a centralized database will provide an efficient mechanism for supporting the activities of the Council. It will also assist in coordinating work across departments that may have overlapping interests.
The purpose of this document is to provide final results of an analysis by the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute (RQPI) in support of this database effort. In this report, we focus in particular on the following questions:
What are the goals of the database system and how do they relate to the objectives of the QSCFA?
What indicators are best suited to support the goals of the database system and how should they be measured?
Are data available to compute the indicators?
What architecture will best support the database system?
To address these questions, we undertook a review of the QSCFA goals and the current mission and potential future activities of the QSCFA departments. As noted above, the QSCFA has developed a prototype database system. For this project, we studied the architecture and indicators included in the prototype database. In addition, we reviewed the major sources of data available to construct most of the indicators of interest.
Our report is organized as follows. Chapter Two provides an overview of the QSCFA social indicators database system, summarizing the objectives of the database system, the needs of the QSCFA users, and the general features of the database system. In Chapter Three, we turn to a discussion of the database indicators, providing an overview of data sources and recommended enhancements to the list of indicators already included in the prototype. In Chapter Four, we consider the architecture of the database system and outline objectives for the architecture. The architecture of the prototype database system and recommended changes are also reviewed. Chapter Five provides our recommendations for next steps and future directions of the QSCFA database system.
Chapter Two2. QSCFA Social Indicators Database System
We begin in this chapter by outlining the objectives of a social indicators database system for the QSCFA. We consider both immediate objectives, as well as potential longer-term goals for utilizing data at the Council. We then review the focus of the six main departments at the QSCFA and identify the types of data relevant for its current mission and potential future goals. Finally, we provide a broad overview of the database content, including the major topic areas to be covered and the types of information to be recorded.
Objectives for the Database System
The database system may have both short-term and longer-term benefits for the work of the QSCFA. We begin by outlining the goals of the database development project in the near future and conclude by discussing some potential longer-term considerations. These short-term and longer-term features of the database system and their relationship to QSCFA objectives are summarized in Figure 2.1.
The immediate goal of the QSCFA database development project is to create a database of summary measures that are relevant to the activities of the QSCFA. The indicators in the database would support the analysis, planning, and decisionmaking of the various QSCFA departments, notably those focusing on the family, women, children, youth, the elderly, and people with special needs. With this objective in mind, the database system may be used to:
Track progress in a given domain or for a given outcome. An indicator, ideally consistently measured across years, can be tracked over time to determine whether change in the indicator is favorable or unfavorable. Multiple indicators in a given domain, such as family well-being, health, or the labor force, can be compared and contrasted.
Compare alternative measures of a given indicator. In some cases, indicators may be measured in more than one way. Variants of an indicator may be stored in the database and compared at a point in time or trends can be compared over time. Comparisons may also be made across different data sources or statistical reports.
Examine indicators for population subgroups or geographic areas. Some indicators may be stored for population subgroups such as women or men, people disaggregated by age, or for Qataris and non-Qataris. Indicators may be compared across groups or for a given group with the population average.
Generate statistics for QSCFA reports or for international agency reports. The information stored in the social indicators database system may be used to generate statistics for use in QSCFA reports, including reports that are updated on a periodic basis or specialized reports on a given topic. The indicators can include those required to meet international reporting requirements, such as the indicators included in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report (see UNDP, 2003).
Thus, the database system needs to be flexible enough to
Accommodate multiple indicators. Given the diverse activities of the QSCFA departments, a wide array of indicators are relevant. In many cases, the same indicator will be of interest to more than one department. And the same indicator may be measured in more than one way.
Store indicators for multiple years. In order to monitor historical patterns and track future progress, the database system will need to store information on a given indicator over time. Since all indicators will not be available for the same time periods, the database system needs to be flexible to account for different periodicities across indicators.
Allow indicators to be analyzed as levels or rates. Many indicators may be measured as both a level (e.g., the number of women in Qatar) and as a proportion (e.g., the fraction of the population in Qatar that is female). In this example, the latter figure is defined as the former divided by the total population, another potential indicator. The database system may record some measures as both levels and rates, or alternatively store only the information in levels but calculate rates using appropriate numerators and denominators.
Record or derive indicators in aggregate and for disaggregated groups or geographic areas. Several of the QSCFA departments focus on specific population subgroups such as women, children, and youth. For many aspects of planning and decisionmaking, it is relevant to compare outcomes for one group against those of another (e.g., women versus men, groups defined by age), or for individuals in one geographic area of the country versus another.
Add new fields for each indicator over time or add new indicators over time. The information needs of the QSCFA departments are not static, but change over time as new priorities are identified and new policy questions arise. Thus, the social indicators database system needs to be flexible enough to allow new indicators to be added over time, or for new fields for each indicator to be incorporated as needed.
In the short term, for most cases, the indicators stored in the database will be based on data collected by other agencies in the Qatari public sector, such as the Planning Council or other government departments, and the QSCFA will not be involved directly in generating the summary measures. The potential sources of data are discussed in Chapter Three.
Potential Longer-Term Objectives
While these uses and features of the social indicators database system will support the ongoing needs of the QSCFA, over a longer horizon, the database needs may be expanded in order to provide even greater support of analysis, planning, and decisionmaking. The first step toward developing effective policy recommendations is to identify trends or gaps between current achievement and targets. The next steps are to (1) determine the causes of trends or gaps, (2) identify subpopulations that are particularly affected, and (3) formulate policy interventions that efficiently and effectively help the populations of interest. These next steps are likely to require analytic tools and data that a database of summary statistics may not necessarily provide. In particular, we can anticipate two future directions for the QSCFA in terms data generation, manipulation, and consumption.
First, in addition to storing summary measures in a database of indicators, the QSCFA would benefit in the future from storing the underlying data used to generate these indicators. Assuming that the QSCFA employs sufficient staff to analyze such data, the QSCFA departments would have even greater flexibility to generate the types of data needed for decisionmaking. The underlying data may include census or survey data, vital statistics data, or administrative data. Access to the detailed data (microdata) used to generate summary indicators will permit analyses that look at the relationship between indicators (e.g., the relationship between family income and women's employment). Such analyses can begin to uncover the association between different indicators, and in some cases, the causal relationship between indicators. Such data may also support studies of the relationships between specific policies and the outcomes they are designed to influence.
Second, in addition to being a consumer of data generated by other public-sector departments, the QSCFA may become a producer of data. Given the diverse program areas covered by the QSCFA and the unique data needs of the Council, in some cases, the data needed to support decisionmaking will not currently exist. This may be because the information is not currently collected (e.g., it is not covered in any survey or administrative data source), or it is not collected in the way needed to support the desired analyses (e.g., information on the topics of interest are not collected in the same data source or over the needed time period). For example, many of the policy issues relevant for the QSCFA cover multiple domains of family life: demographic decisions (e.g., marriage, divorce, childbearing), economic decisions (e.g., labor force behavior, spending behavior), or health behavior (e.g., health status, health care utilization). Most data sources, such as censuses, labor force surveys, or household budget surveys, do not contain information on these multiple domains simultaneously. As another example, many aspects of family life take place over time and therefore outcomes are inherently dynamic. Behavior that changes over time is ideally analyzed using longitudinal data that tracks the same individuals or families through time. Such longitudinal data are often not collected in larger-scale surveys but can be collected in smaller, more intensive surveys. Thus, it may be that in the future, new data collection is required in support of policymaking at the Council.
In sum, to formulate effective policy recommendations, a database with information on individuals or families is needed. In addition to such macro-level information as social indicators, thorough analysis requires micro-level information on individuals' health, education, living arrangements, income, and so on. Individual-level information can reveal the sources of lagging progress. For example, suppose a social indicator on school enrollment among 15-yearolds shows that the actual enrollment rate is lower than the target rate. Individual-level information can identify which youths are not in school and what their family circumstances are. Perhaps some are not in school because they need to help their needy parents; perhaps children in poor families need to work; or perhaps children of poorly educated parents are more likely to leave school. Only individual-level information can reveal such patterns and help formulate effective policy interventions.
Clearly, the development of an integrated system of individual-level data collection, storage, and analysis is a long-term issue, and the collection and maintenance of a database with individual-level data go beyond the initial objective of developing a database with social indicators. We mention these potential longer-term objectives here because a sketch of an "ideal" information system provides focus for the first stage of the development of the social indicators database system. These potential objectives are also useful because they help to avoid early decisions that may hamper the achievement of long-term goals later.
The main consumers or users of the QSCFA database will be QSCFA staff in the six main departments of the Council, namely the departments that focus on the family, women, children, youth, the elderly, and people with special needs. The data will also be useful for the work of the committees associated with each of the departments.
It is worth noting, given the overlapping goals of the departments and the domains they cover, that there will not be a one-to-one correspondence between QSCFA departments and subsets of social indicators. Many indicators will be relevant to more than one department: For example, many measures that pertain to the health of the family will also be relevant to women, children, or youth.
Excerpted from Qatar Supreme Council for Family Affairs Database of Social Indicators by Lynn A. Karoly Michael Mattock Copyright © 2006 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
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