CGS Brown Bag: “A New Method for Measuring Diversity Using Sampled Survey Data”


Our first Brown Bag of the Spring 2018 semester was “A New Method for Measuring Diversity Using Sampled Data” – part of The Digital Nexus: The Promise and Perils of “Big Data” and Global Informatics series. Presented by Avital Livny.

Abstract: The negative associations between diversity and economic growth, public goods provision, and interpersonal trust may be some of the few established “laws” of political economics. But the validity of these empirical patterns ultimately depends on the quality of the underlying data, and estimates of group-size typically used to calculate fractionalization may suffer from bias, if they exist at all. To address this potential measurement error, a new method for estimating group-size and calculating fractionalization is proposed which uses self-identification in cross-national survey data. New estimates of ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity from over 175 countries are provided, based on data from over 9 million survey respondents. The new indices are statistically significantly different from existing ones in a supra-majority of cases. Further, using the updated measure of ethnic diversity, the correlation between diversity and economic growth no longer holds, a difference driven by the inclusion of a number of sizable ethnic groups ignored in the existing measures.

Presenter Bio: Avital Livny received her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in Political Science, History, and Near Eastern Studies, and worked as a Policy Assistant for Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund) before beginning her graduate studies. She earned an M.Phil. in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and an M.Sc. in Comparative Politics Research from Oxford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University. She spent AY 2014-2015 as a Junior Research Fellow at the Carlos III-Juan March Institute in Madrid, Spain before beginning as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently, she is a Linowes Faculty Fellow at the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois. Her research interests generally fall under the heading of comparative politics and include: the politics of religion and ethnicity, particularly the micro-foundations of identity-based mobilization and the measurement of identity as a political entity; patterns of political participation in developing democracies; and variations in interpersonal trust, across space and time. Her region of interest is the Middle East and she has conducted extensive research in Turkey. She is a native speaker of Hebrew and English and has good knowledge of both Modern Turkish and Modern Standard Arabic.

Slides from the presentation || Event flyer