MOOC Global Statistics - Composite Indices for International Comparisons

The number of constructed composite indices used internationally is growing very fast; however, although quantitative techniques’ complexity has increased dramatically, education and training in this area have lagged behind. Consequently, indices’ simple numbers, expected to synthesize quite complex issues, are often presented to the public and used in political debates without proper emphasis on their intrinsic limitations and correct interpretations.

In this course on global statistics, which the University of Geneva jointly offers with the ETH Zürich KOF, the participants learn about the general approach to constructing composite indices and some of the resulting problems. During the course, the technical properties, the internal structure (like aggregation, weighting, and the stability of time series), the primary data used, and the variable selection methods, are discussed. These concepts are illustrated by means of a sample of the most popular composite indices. The course not only addresses statistical questions but also focuses on the distinction between policy-, media-, and paradigm-driven indicators.

The course is aimed at people working with composite indices, whether in local, national, international, public, or private institutions, such as NGOs, in international bodies such as international organizations, and those working in the media. It may also be of interest to students and researchers wishing to understand and use composite indices in their work.

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