64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Measuring Progress on the SDGs – the pros and cons of using composite measures for SDGs


Ms Cara Williams


  • CW
    Ms Cara Williams
  • GC
    Guillaume Cohen
  • CM
    Catherine Michaud
  • LR
    Live Rognerud
  • GL
    Guillaume Lafortune
  • VP
    Viveka Palm
  • Abstract

    The 2030 Agenda is an expansive global agenda that encompasses society, the economy and the environment. The 17 Goals, 169 Targets and 231 unique indicators of the SDGs means that it is difficult to determine if progress is being made. Added to this complexity is that there are other SDG indicator frameworks at the country, regional and organizations such as SDSN that indicator frameworks which may overlap or contain completely unique indicator sets.
    The question of how to measure overall progress then arises. Composite indices, distance-to-targets measures or country rankings have been proposed as alternatives to overcome the excess of information often associated with large indicator sets. However, while composite indices are easy to understand for policy makers, they can mask important changes that may need to be addressed. Moreover, in some cases, the weighting of indicators may vary. And at the extreme, composite indices on the same topics developed for different SDG indicator sets can may provide diametrically different results. However, composite measures are easy to for policy makers to understand when indicator frameworks are large and complex.
    This session will discuss the advantages and shortcomings of composite and distance to targets measures versus alternative presentations such as dashboards, and in which situations either approach works best.