Harmonising Demographic and Socio-Economic Variables for Cross-National

Juergen H.P. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik (University of Giessen) and Uwe Warner (CEPS/INSTEAD)

Course content:

The course provides an introduction to the comparative measurement of socio-demographic variables both from a theoretical as well as a practical point of view.

(1) Rules for national standardisation and international harmonisation are introduced.

-    From translation to harmonisation

-    From national concepts to comparative measurements

(2) Then the harmonization of a number of socio-demographic variables and concepts commonly used in cross-national research will be discussed:

-    Measuring education cross-national

-    Measuring income cross-national

-    Measuring private household cross-national

-    Measuring race and ethnicity cross-national

Education is one of the basic social facts setting up social stratification and inequality. The course will illustrate the process from concepts of national educational structures to a harmonized categorical system which may allow comparing education across countries.

For income and private household, we propose a set of survey questions that take into account the national income distributions and the national cultures that determine the household definitions and compositions across European countries.

Finally, studying respondents’ race, ethnicity, and migration background becomes increasingly important in Europe. In comparative surveys, we need to identify nationality, citizenship, ethnicity, and the migration experience of survey respondents for the comparison of European countries.

Course objectives

It is necessary to standardize national socio-demographic measures to be able to compare across various national surveys. But socio-demographic variables are influenced by the national and cultural settings; therefore, the measurement differs across the countries. To achieve comparability, researchers need to harmonize the underlying concepts of the measures that one wants to compare. The knowledge about harmonization allows researchers to carry out comparative surveys in international research networks.

These skills increase the researchers’ capability to judge the comparative potential of surveys and to evaluate the quality of survey data for comparative analyses.

Course prerequisites

The course does not require any specific knowledge of cross-national survey research. But students should be familiar with questionnaire design.

About the instructors

Dr. Juergen H.P. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik was senior researcher and head of the Knowledge Transfer Unit at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences till end of 2011. He is Professor at the institute for the Political Sciences at Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, Germany. His current research interests include standardisation and harmonisation of socio-demographic variables for national and cross-national comparative research.

Together with Uwe Warner, he published several monographs and articles about socio-demographic variables in comparative research. Quite recently: Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik and Warner, 2013: Harmonisation of Demographic and Socio-Economic Variables – Instruments for Cross National Comparative Surveys. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Dr. Uwe Warner is "conseiller scientifique" at CEPS/INSTEAD, "Centre d'Etudes de Populations, de Pauvreté et de Politiques Socio-Economiques / International Network for Studies in Technology, Environment, Alternatives, Development" in Esch/Alzette, Luxembourg. His current research interests include harmonisation of socio-demographic variables for cross-national comparative research.