Heather Krause writes one of my favorite newsletter. She works at Datassist, a company working with NGOs and data journalists.
Recently, she wrote about social indices:
A social index is a summary of a complex issue (or issues). Generally, social indexes take a large number of variables related to a specific topic or situation and combine them to get one number. It’s often a single number, but can also be a rank (#1 country out of 180) or a category (“high performing”).Heather Krause
Pros of social indices:
- attract public interest
- allow comparisons over time
- provide a big picture
- „reduce vast amounts of information to a manageable size“
- „disguise a massive amount of inequality in the data“
- simplistic interpretations
- hide emerging problems of some variables
So, should we use them?
Krause says, „yes“, but …
If we’re using an index to understand a trend or situation, we also need to look at the individual elements that make up that index.
Datassist published a list with various indicators here.