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PPIRS International Data Workshop - Session 1

This is a research guide designed to complement the presentation given by Jennifer Huck to PPIRS on Oct. 22, 2020.

Data Librarian

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Jennifer Huck
Brown Library 152
Subjects: Data Science

International Statistical Indicators: World Bank / UN / OECD

This section covers macro-level indicators, collected by large Intergovernmental Organizations, about a broad range of topics.

It is a good idea to ask yourself who would care about my topic of interest?  This is where it is helpful for librarians to have a basic understanding of the major IGOs, and the agencies or programmes within them.  Even knowing that much about the landscape will give you an advantage when searching for data.


World Bank

World Bank Open Data offers international statistical indicators mostly focused on Economy and Development, but truly spanning all kinds of topics.
Timeframe: Some indicators go back as far as 1960
Geography: Country-level data for the globe

The World Bank pulls in data from other partners, such as the UN and OECD, so it can be a good place to start if you aren’t sure where to look.  There are over 30 partners that include IGOs, governmental agencies, NGOs, and private groups.

World Bank Indicators include:

  • Agriculture & Rural Development
  • Aid Effectiveness
  • Climate Change
  • Economy & Growth
  • Education
  • Energy & Mining
  • Environment
  • External Debt
  • Financial Sector
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Infrastructure
  • Poverty
  • Private Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Science & Technology
  • Social Development
  • Social Protection & Labor
  • Trade
  • Urban Development

You can view data for the world, or one or several countries.  It is easy to download data from this simple interface.  More advanced users should note the more advanced access options, such as DataBank, Microdata, and Indicators API.

Example data: Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added (% of GDP)

Note that the World Bank Open Data (basic indicators) site does not list every indicator available.  Data displayed on that site are a subset of those available in the World Bank’s DataBank, which contains extensive collections of time series data.  So if you don’t find what you are looking for, or if the results feel incomplete, check out DataBank.

The best thing about the World Bank data sites is that they cite their sources, so you can always track down the original source of the data.  The site offers helpful metadata!


United Nations

The United Nations also offers a wide range of data, including development indicators
The United Nations has many funds, programmes, and agencies – so this is where it is helpful to have some understanding about the overall organization, in order to find data.  
The UN breaks their data into “DataMarts” – which can be helpful in tracking down data.  For example, there are DataMarts for:

  • WHO
  • FAO
  • ILO

Again, these are generally captured in the World Bank platform, which I find easier to use, and includes good metadata.

Here are more useful places to look for UN data:


The OECD is another IGO typically focused on policy, but this time focused more on developed countries.  There are a number of indicators that they focus on:

  • Agriculture
  • Development
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Health
  • Innovation and Technology
  • Jobs
  • Society

They offer some specialized surveys, such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year old students in more countries than are in the OECD.  
Both the UN and OECD offer an iLibrary platform.  Both platforms offer a Statistics section.  (And as such, sometimes it gets hard for me to tell if I get access to UN or OECD publications because UVA subscribes to these platforms.)  If you have access to these platforms, they can be good places to start since they are nicely organized.