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Measuring the Invisible: Data and Estimates of the Population Lacking Proof of Legal Identity

Romesh Silva, United Nations Population Fund
Soumaya Taibi, UNFPA

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in response to the challenge of multi-faceted inequalities between and within countries, calls for renewed commitment and action to “leave no one behind.” Target 16.9 specifically calls for “providing legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030.” However, formal quantification and socio-demographic description of the population lacking legal identity is difficult. The challenges entail definitional issues, data availability, data quality and technical estimation methods. In this paper, we review the World Bank Group’s country-level data and estimates of persons lacking legal identity. We begin by assessing their internal consistency and then compare these data and estimates to those from population and housing censuses and household surveys for selected countries, where data are available. We describe the notable differences between these different data sources and estimation methods, and note their relative strengths and limitations. Specifically, we note the ability of censuses and multi-modal surveys, such as the State of Aadhar initiative, to identify subnational populations lacking legal identity and describe their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. We conclude by discussing how quantification and sociodemographic description of the population lacking legal identity can inform national and international efforts to strengthen inclusive legal identity systems.

Keywords: Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Applied demography, Comparative methods

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 184. Strengthening the Evidence Base for Inclusive Population Policies