Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

The Political Economy of Bad Data: Evidence from African Survey & Administrative Statistics

Justin Sandefur, Amanda Glassman

July 2014

Center for Global Development


Across multiple African countries, discrepancies between administrative data and independent household surveys suggest official statistics systematically exaggerate development progress. We provide evidence for two distinct explanations of these discrepancies. First, governments misreport to foreign donors, as in the case of a results-based aid program rewarding reported vaccination rates. Second, national governments are themselves misled by frontline service providers, as in the case of primary education, where official enrollment numbers diverged from survey estimates after funding shifted from user fees to per pupil government grants. Both syndromes highlight the need for incentive compatibility between data systems and funding rules.