Human Rights and Social Policies for Children and Women: The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in Practice

A joint publication of Equity for Children’s Executive Director Alberto Minujin and UNICEF that monitors progress toward Sustainable Development Goals, offering a crucial data tool that goes beyond income measures, capturing a comprehensive view of child well-being through topics like immunization, nutrition, and education.

In 2005, the New School and UNICEF collaborated to publish a book entitled Human Rights and Social Policies for Children and Women: The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in Practice. Equity for Children’s Executive Director Alberto Minujin was a contributing editor to the publication, which compiles research papers presented in April, 2004 at an international conference titled “Social Policies and Human Rights for Children and Women: Monitoring and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals”. This book remains highly pertinent among practitioners in the current context of monitoring progress towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as its contents center on a data collection tool formulated to perform the critical task of filling in data gaps necessary to measure progress towards international targets while also addressing a shortage of multidimensional measurement of child well-being. This data tool, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), generates data primarily from children and women of childbearing age on topics such as immunization, nutrition, school attendance, HIV/AIDS awareness, child birth, and child labor, in order to capture a rounded picture of welfare extending beyond simple income measures of poverty.

The MICS tool, developed by UNICEF, underwent multiple revisions and expansions while reaching 65 developing countries as of 2001, and has provided fertile grounds for a literature of empirical data analysis. The 2004 conference that joined representatives from academia, NGOs, government agencies, and international development agencies to present the research showcased in this publication aimed to frame the MICS within the context of the measurement of child well-being and poverty. Through this lens, the conference aimed to enhance the MICS data’s capacity to benefit children commonly excluded from policy-making agendas by ensuring their visibility in data, and thus in the evidence for policy recommendations addressing the multidimensional challenges of child poverty.

The MICS not only addresses the critical lack of accurate data regarding children, but enables the monitoring of child rights fulfillment. In 1989, the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) officially recognized the human rights approach to children, emphasizing the responsibility of governments to defend children’s right to survive, develop healthily, participate and realize their full potential in society, and receive protection from violence, discrimination, and exclusion. Children are one of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and deprivations or rights violations experienced during early years have lifelong impacts on the welfare of today’s youth as well as that of the future generations that our young will have to support and guide towards maturity.

The most rapid brain development occurs during the first three years of life, laying crucial foundations for future cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being. Targeted investment in children and adolescents plays a key role in improving social outcomes at the national and global levels, and combatting impact areas of child poverty such as health and education lay the groundwork for fostering more just, equal, and sustainable societies in future. The data generated through the use of the MICS contributes a meaningful pool of evidence to support the prioritization of such investment in the policy arena.

Equity for Children has been hard at work since the time of this book’s publication ensuring that research communities worldwide have access to data tools capable of capturing the lived realities of children in multidimensional poverty to ensure that policies are crafted to respond accurately to their needs and maximize the use of resources to ensure that no child faces exclusion from the chance to fulfill their greatest potential. This publication contains research and case studies spanning the globe. Not only do its contributing researchers utilize MICS data to reshape the policy discourse to incorporate more nuanced strategies targeting the multiple aspects of child poverty; they also critique methodological approaches to using the MICS data, targeting areas in which the MICS can become an even better tool with the revision or addition of indicators. Researchers and practitioners must always strive to ensure that the statistical tools employed to inform policy, which impact people’s lives as well as broader social outcomes, are able to capture the challenges and needs of people in danger of exclusion and to illuminate effective solutions. Equity for Children is committed to this task, and particularly to providing evidence to ensure that policymakers see investment in children as central to creating capable future world leaders and enabling achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To download the publication click here.

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