Stand up and be counted:
Aymara Bolivians celebrate
in La Paz after the congress
agreed to hold two referenda on a new constitution
proposed by President
Evo Morales in 2008.
Household survey data are one of the most important sources of information for determining levels of access and gaps in national coverage. Reliable data help decision-makers
analyze successes and failures of a wide
range of programs, such as water and
sanitation. More broadly, the data serve
as a cornerstone for measuring development progress, designing targeted programs, and monitoring the success and efficiency of
But when household surveys inadequately incorporate racial or ethnic populations in sampling, they provide limited socioeconomic information on the most
marginalized groups in society—the very groups that
often lack access to basic services. Another problem is
that marginalized racial and ethnic groups are often not
incorporated in the data collection exercises that serve
as the basis for national policy and investment decisions.
In countries such as Panama, Paraguay, Nicaragua,
Guatemala, Honduras, and Bolivia, over 60 percent
of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations
are poor. Nevertheless, in too many cases the extent
of these populations’ exclusion from society has not
been accurately measured because of household surveys that do not include ethnicity—even in countries
where poverty is as high as 80 percent in Indigenous
or Afro-descendant communities.
In those countries where data are available, the lack
of access to services in Indigenous and Afro-descendant
regions is so high in certain sectors that their exclusion
distorts national indicators. For example, Latin America
and the Caribbean may have difficulties reaching Millen-
nium Development Goal targets in areas such as maternal
health in part because of persistent racial and ethnic gaps.
126 Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012