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World Data! A New Resource for Analyzing Material Living Standards Within and Across Countries

We have developed over a number of years and now make publicly available a new and unprecedented data resource for understanding levels of living, poverty, inequality and inclusivity of growth and development around the world.

The Global Consumption and Income Project (GCIP) released the beta version of its datasets on April 15 th, 2016 at a launch event in collaboration with the Advanced Research Collaborative of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The project, initiated in 2009, is led by the authors, INET-linked academic researchers at various institutions (Arjun Jayadev, Rahul Lahoti and Sanjay G. Reddy), and provides two freely accessible datasets: the Global Income Database and the Global Consumption Database. Together these paint an unprecedented portrait of consumption and income of persons over time, within and across countries and across the world, which can be used by academic researchers, journalists, public policy analysts in government, international organizations, think tanks, the private sector, activists and the general public.

The datasets are based on around two thousand underlying surveys from around the world over more than fifty years. The versions released on April the 15th present estimates of monthly real consumption and income for every decile of the population (tenths ranked by level) for more than 160 countries for every year for more than half a century in as comparable a way as possible. Despite growing concern about issues of living standards, poverty and inequality, enshrined now in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, there have been no freely accessible datasets providing for analysis of the level as well as distribution of material living standards with coverage as expansive and of as high a quality as provided by the GCIP. We aim moreover to achieve a high standard of transparency in terms of documentation of our sources and methods, ultimately enabling alternate methodological choices to be made. As a result, this is a unique global public good. The database has been profiled by the Economist and other media.

In light of pressing concerns about global living standards, poverty and inequality, this effort will prove invaluable for researchers, multilateral institutions and the interested public who wish to understand key global, regional and national public issues and to identify solutions. Future versions of the database will allow users more sophisticated tools, for example, the ability to aggregate distributional data across countries to provide regional portraits of poverty and inequality, and still more comprehensive data.

At the launch event, leading scholars in the field of global inequality, including leading experts (such as Sudhir Anand, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Branko Milanovic, Salvatore Morelli, and Dawn Holland of the United Nations Department of Econmics and Social Affairs) appreciated the project and presented commentary. More information and the data (in beta form) can be found on gcip.info. A recording of the event will also be made available subsequently. We very much hope that the project, and the data we provide and will maintain over time, as a free and accessible global resource, will indeed be of wide interest and that it will benefit from the participation and engagement of experts and of a broad interested public.

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