10.4 D-score for international settings

Section 9 compared D-scores between three study samples. We restricted the analysis to studies that used the same instrument (the DDI, in Togo, translated to French) to measure child development.

It is difficult to compare levels of child development worldwide. Existing estimates on children not reaching their developmental potential rely on proxies, such as stunting and poverty. While these proxies have been found to correlate with child development, they are only weak indicators of actual child performance. Arguably, the performance of a child on a set of well-chosen milestones is more informative for his or her future health and productivity than body height or parental income.

There are more than 150 instruments are available that quantify child development. Many of these tools produce not just one but many scores. Such an overwhelming choice may seem a luxury until we realize that we cannot compare their ratings. Of course, we could settle on just one instrument …., but that’s never going to happen. While simple in theory, pre-harmonization is complicated in practice. It requires significant and continued investments by a central agency. It does not address historical data, so it will be challenging to see secular trends. Also, pre-harmonization impedes the adoption of innovative techniques, e.g., using smartphone-assisted evaluations.

The D-score opens up an exciting alternative: agree on the scale, and leave some liberty to the data-collector in the exact choice of the instrument. We could build upon the expertise of the data collector about the local population. Also, it will equip is to keep up with innovations in measurement.

The next chapter in our work will address some of the conceptual and technical issues that arise when we attempt to apply the D-score to other populations.