A behind-the-scenes look at early childhood development data

This week leading up to Father’s Day, new data shine the spotlight on how parents are involved in their children’s learning and development. One finding is that about half (55 per cent) of young children in 74 mostly low-and middle-income countries have fathers who do not engage in play and learning activities with them.

What’s the story behind these data – where and how are these data being collected? The answer: The data are primarily the result of a UNICEF-supported household survey programme called MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys), which entails sampling homes where people live and interviewing individuals at each home about themselves and children.

MICS, in fact, is the largest source of internationally comparable data on various aspects of early childhood development. For example,almost all countries with data on father’s engagement in UNICEF’s global database have collected such information through a MICS survey or module.






Proportion of countries with available data on father’s engagement in UNICEF’s global database, by type of latest available source.








MICS collects data on a variety of aspects of Early Childhood Development, such as for example:

  • Learning materials
  • Support for learning
  • Inadequate care
  • Child development outcomes
  • Child discipline
  • Nutrition and many other topics


Without this kind of evidence, our knowledge on parental involvement worldwide released today would be nothing more than a rough estimate.


What is MICS?  MICS is a global household survey programme that supports countries to  collect, analyse and use data about children and women. Since 1995, MICS has generated data on the wellbeing of children, women and families – data that has helped shaped policies, document progress and improve lives. Since 1995, 292 surveys have been conducted by 107 countries. MICS has been one of the largest producers of child related data that are comparable across countries and over time, yielding statistics that can be disaggregated by a number of social, economic and demographic characteristics such as sex, residence, household wealth and ethnicity to provide insight  into the lives of the most vulnerable. There’s a rigorous process in place that ensures that the data is accurate, reliable and internationally comparable





Countries use MICS data to target local interventions and to monitor progress. Having reliable data has enabled better targeting of programmes and interventions where they are needed most.







One thing is certain: Data hold more potential than ever before to shape the lives and living conditions of children. Household surveys are the most effective method in filling the existing knowledge vacuum with robust and representative data including on Early Childhood Development. Unleashing the power of data for children will require continued investment towards these, so that every child will be guaranteed a voice.


For more information, see:


Also see UNICEF’s new strategic framework on Data for Children

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