Jeroen Smits

Social researcher with a passion for database building

Database Developing World


In the last decades, many large-scale representative household surveys have been conducted in developing countries. In these surveys, for millions of individuals, demographic, socio-economic, health and other information has been collected. At this moment, the data from these surveys cover over 135 countries in all regions of the developing world.

In the Database Developing World (DDW) these datasets are brought together, made comparable, and enriched with contextual data at the subnational and national level. In this way, a unique window to the developing world is created that makes it possible to study important processes taking place there on a scale and with a degree of detail that has never been possible before.

Aims & Opportunities

Analyzing and monitoring large-scale demographic, socio-economic, behavioral, political, cultural, health, institutional and environmental changes taking place throughout the developing world.

Developing indicators at the level of regions/provinces within countries that make it possible to monitor changes at the sub-national level with great detail. These indicators can be used scientifically, but also for creating detailed overview scans of regions for political or humanitarian purposes. The DDW contains many indicators for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Connecting the household level information in the DDW with data from other sources (like satellite images) on the physical, geographical and biological environment in which the households are living. In this way, information from both kinds of sources can be related to each other and large-scale analyses can be performed of the interaction between man and environment.

Expanding the power of the database continuously by including new datasets and variables and by developing new techniques to integrate, enrich and analyze the multiple-source multilevel data in it.


The DDW is not a database in the classic sense. It is an open data infrastructure to which continuously new datasets and variables are added. The datasets are archived separately after harmonization and the construction of new variables.

To run a specific analysis on the DDW, the variables needed for that analysis are extracted from the datasets and brought together in a working file. On that working file the analysis is run. More information on the way the DDW is structured can be found here.

Research opportunities

With comparable data for over 135 countries and context information for 1200 sub-national regions within these countries, DDW offers excellent opportunities for comparative multilevel research on a broad range of topics.

DDW data have been used for studying differences within and among developing countries with regard to poverty, educational participation, child labor, health differences, family formation, women's employment, child mortality, intermarriage, and gender inequalities. An overview of papers using DDW data can be found here.