Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
By Hans Gutbrod
When we started this blog, quite a few years ago, we published a few posts, and didn't tell anyone about it. We weren't sure whether the venture would work – and whether it was a good fit for ourselves. Now, with this 500th post, I'm glad to see that our tentative venture took off.
The blog continues to hold a lot of material that may be of interest to readers, as it documents various aspects of work that have been done over the years. Readers, researchers, journalists and the interested public may find it useful to browse whenever they look for information on a specific issue.
An additional tool we built for that purpose is Find Policy, a tool that searches websites of all major Georgian research organizations, and also includes this blog. You can find it here: www.findpolicy.org/georgia
At the occasion of the 500th post, what are some of the issues that lie in the future? How can empirical social science be relevant to the lives of people in the South Caucasus? Here are some ideas.
Quality & Standards
Research organizations succeed because of processes. Being organized is often more important than being smart. If social researchers in the South Caucasus want to be credible, they have to deliver consistent quality, and this may sound difficult. However, there is much experience in how to structure review processes which institutions can draw on.
Such review costs time. Yet it’s an investment that pays off. If research organizations want to make a difference, putting such internal review processes in place is a key component. How to make them stick? Write them up and put them on your website, as a binding policy to commit everyone on the team. You can still override in rare emergencies, but you can’t thrive if you only operate in emergency mode.
Fortunately, many organizations in Georgia are transparent about who funds them. In the past, these were primarily Western-oriented institutions. Lately, there is added concern about funding from Russia, seeking to further Russian interests. At first glance, this is legitimate, too, as debate typically thrives on a diversity of opinion. However, all institutions should be transparent about who funds them. They owe this to citizens, who thereby can better understand who paid for research. Organizations that are committed to having an impact should be role models in that regard. Georgia is already doing quite well – and why not become the most transparent country, in that regard, in the world? (Disclosure: I'm campaigning on this issue through an initiative called Transparify.)
Funding & Finance
Research organizations in the South Caucasus have enjoyed generous support. However, donors often do not understand what it takes to fund consistent quality. For that reason, too, transparency matters. Many research organizations in the South Caucasus arguably are better characterized as bundles of short-term projects. Such funding is valuable, but makes it harder to build up long-term expertise on particular issues. One worthwhile investment for donor money is to (continue to) give core-funding to those institutions that are genuinely committed to doing quality work. One evidence of such a commitment to quality are the standards and the transparency mentioned above.
What information should be in social research that aspires to be policy-relevant? There is no consensus on that in the South Caucasus, and arguably not even a sensible debate about some of the core components. Arguably, all policy proposals should be (a) intelligible, (b) calculate costs and benefits, on the basis of sound data, (c) consider alternatives and potential unintended consequences and (d) list major risks and corresponding mitigation strategies. These are some basic criteria that most people should be able to agree on, even while they add further suggestions.
In general, the quality of reports produced by research organizations in the South Caucasus has gone up, but I still read too many reports that fail by some of these basic standards. There also are presentations where I still struggle to understand what’s really being said. By the 1000th post, in šāʾ Allāh, it would be great if these basic problems were under control. Social research would increase its impact and help improve the lives of people in the South Caucasus.
With this happy anniversary note, I pass the ball over to you, readers, for your suggestions on what you would like to see from future social research in the region.
Hans Gutbrod was Regional Director at CRRC from 2006 to 2012, and initiated the CRRC Social Science in the Caucasus blog. He is now with Transparify. He is on Twitter.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Although many literature lovers take their favorite novels’ quotes for granted, a hybrid literature lover and social scientist cannot resist but putting literature’s postulates to data scrutiny. In one of his most famous works, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera wrote that “A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.” If Kundera’s statement is taken as a hypothesis and generalized from the individual to the societal level, it could be argued that the unhappier people are, the more they will long to leave their countries, emigrating either temporarily or permanently.
Using data from CRRC’s 2010 and 2013 Caucasus Barometer surveys, this blog post tries to test Kundera’s postulate on Armenia. Armenians demonstrate higher interest in both temporary and permanent emigration compared to Azerbaijanis and Georgians. This is consistent throughout the 2008-2013 period covered by Caucasus Barometer surveys. In both 2010 and 2013, almost 1 in 3 Armenians reported that they would leave the country forever if they had the chance, compared to roughly 1 in 5 Azerbaijanis and only around 1 in 14 Georgians. Moreover, regarding temporary emigration, the same pattern emerges, with roughly 3 in 5 Armenians that would leave the country for a certain period if they had the chance, compared to 1 in 2 Azerbaijanis and almost 1 in 2 Georgians.
Note: Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis throughout this blog post.
While it is clear that, in the South Caucasus, Armenians are the most eager to leave their country either temporarily or permanently, it is difficult to point out a single reason behind this eagerness, given the socio-historic background of Armenian emigration and the well-organized diaspora communities that provide support for Armenian emigrants worldwide. Nevertheless, it is interesting to explore whether Armenians’ reported level of (un)happiness is in any way associated with their distinct willingness to leave their country.
Unhappy people in Armenia are slightly less inclined to emigrate temporarily, while there is no significant difference between happy and unhappy people in relation to permanent emigration. Thus, in 2010, 67% of those Armenians who reported to be happy also reported that they would like to leave the country for a certain period if they had the chance, while 58% of unhappy citizens reported the same. In 2013, 62% of Armenians reporting to be happy also reported that they would like to leave the country for a certain period if they had the chance, compared with 54% of the unhappy citizens that were willing to do so. In both years, though, almost the same share of happy and unhappy people would leave Armenia forever if they had the chance.
Note: Answer options to the question “Overall, how happy would you say you are?” were re-coded from a 10-point scale into a 3-point scale, so that answer options 1 through 4 were re-coded into “unhappy”, 5 and 6 into “neither happy nor unhappy,” and 7 through 10 into “happy”.
Although literary postulates are admired and quoted for their aesthetic beauty rather than their statistical significance, this does not make them immune from data truthiness testing. Despite the sacrilege of putting Kundera’s famous quote under data scrutiny, this blog post showed that in the case of Armenia, there is no statistical association between the level of (un)happiness and Armenians’ distinct willingness to leave their country either temporarily or permanently. Maybe J.R.R Tolkien was right instead, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
What are your thoughts on Armenians’ distinct willingness to emigrate? Join in the conversation on the CRRC Facebook page or in the comments section below.
Monday, March 09, 2015
Although young Georgians were critical of the extent to which human rights were respected in the country in general, they themselves reported a lack of interest in the rights of sexual and ethnic minorities. Young people’s interest in LGBT rights was particularly low – only 13% of the youth surveyed in Georgia reported that they were interested in LGBT rights, while 68% said they were not interested. Young people in Russian survey locations showed a similar disinterest in LGBT rights, while in all other countries reported interest in LGBT rights was higher, exceeding 20% in Croatia and the United Kingdom, and 40% in both East and West Germany. The lack of interest in Georgia could be interpreted as a lack of respect for the rights of these minorities.
In Georgia, the above interpretation was partially confirmed by events which followed several months after fieldwork. On May 17, 2013, on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), Georgian society, including the youth, demonstrated its intolerance towards sexual minorities. Thousands of angry people led by representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church violently attacked Georgian LGBT-rights activists gathered to commemorate the day. This violence “resulted in 17 people being injured – 12 of whom were hospitalized, including three policemen and a journalist.”
When it comes to the rights of other ethnic groups and foreign nationals – and most notably, migrants – Georgian youth seem to be more accepting than with sexual minorities. Nonetheless, the level of tolerance reported in Georgia is low compared to other countries. About 40% of young people in the Georgian survey locations “strongly agree” or “agree” with the statement that “migrants should have the same rights to welfare (social assistance/support) as people from Georgia.” On the other hand, 38% “strongly disagree” or “disagree” with this statement. Compared with other countries, only Russian young people seem to be less tolerant, with 46% disagreeing with this statement. In surveyed European Union countries, young people are more open to other nations and a higher percentage agrees with the above statement. This data demonstrates that when it comes to immigrants, young people’s way of thinking in Georgia is more in line with young people living in Russia than those living in the EU.
Tolerance and openness to whatever is not considered “Georgian” is often absent among Georgian youth. Therefore, it seems too early to talk about deeply rooted liberal attitudes and tolerance of the youth in Georgia – these values, rather characteristic of EU countries, have not yet developed in Georgia, and many young people are not yet ready to accept different views or to respect and support the interests and rights of minorities in the country.
To learn more about the MYPLACE project, visit the project website. To view more results of other CRRC surveys, visit our Online Data Analysis tool.
Monday, March 02, 2015
Deserving to be beaten and tolerating violence: Attitudes towards violence against women in Azerbaijan
Domestic violence counts for a considerable part of violence against women worldwide, with as many as 38% of all murders of women in 2013 being committed by intimate partners, compared with only 6% of murders of men according to the World Health Organization. The gendered character of domestic violence is a pressing issue in the South Caucasus. In Georgia, 1 in 11 married women has been a victim of physical domestic violence. Compounding the issue, 78% of women in Georgia consider domestic violence a private matter that should remain in the family, according to the United Nations Population Fund in 2010. Although, in Georgia 25 women were reported to have been killed by their husbands or partners in 2014 alone, the number is widely believed to be higher due to non-systematic practices of recording violence against women. In contrast to both Azerbaijan and Georgia, in Armenia there is still no legislation against domestic violence, with Amnesty International reporting that the numbers of women having experienced violence from their husbands or family members in 2008 was as high as 1 in 4 women. Azerbaijan presents a similarly alarming case, with 83 women that have been killed and 98 that committed suicide as a result of domestic violence in 2013, according to the Council of Europe. Against this background, it is important to have a closer look at people’s attitude towards violence against women and more specifically, towards domestic violence in Azerbaijan.
CRRC-Azerbaijan’s 2012 Social Capital, Media and Gender Survey in Azerbaijan, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), provides an opportunity to explore the attitudes of different socio-demographic groups of the Azerbaijani population towards violence against women. Respondents were asked, to what extent they agree or disagree with the statements, “There are times when women deserve to be beaten” and “Women should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together.” This blog post looks into how the attitudes of the representatives of various socio-demographic groups differ towards these two statements, which are jointly referred to as “violence against women”.
In general, Azerbaijanis are more inclined to agree that women should tolerate domestic violence in order to keep their family together (40%) than to agree that there are times when a woman deserves to be beaten (22%). Thus, part of the Azerbaijani population thinks that even though women do not deserve to be beaten, they should still tolerate violence in order to keep their families together.
In Azerbaijan, men are more inclined than women to think that there are times when women deserve to be beaten and/or that women should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together. Thus, 13% more men than women think that there are times when women deserve to be beaten, and 9% more men think that women should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together. Nevertheless, it is important to notice that women themselves (16% in the former case, and an alarming 36% in the latter one) also agree with the statements.
Note: Answers to both statements, “There are times when women deserve to be beaten” and “Women should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together,” were re-coded here and in the rest of the analysis as follows: “completely agree” and “somewhat agree” into “agree,” and “completely disagree” and “somewhat disagree” into “disagree.” Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis throughout the blog.
Attitudes towards violence against women also vary by settlement type. When moving from rural settlements to the capital, less people believe that women deserve to be beaten or that women should tolerate violence. The difference is visible when considering that 1 in 3 people in rural settlements think that there are times when women deserve to be beaten, against only 1 in 10 people agreeing with the statement in Baku. Moreover, almost every other person in rural settlements believes that women should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together, against less than 1 in 4 people that think so in Baku.
Attitudes towards violence against women also vary by economic situation. About a third (30%) of those that describe their economic situation as poor believe that there are times when women deserve to be beaten and half of them believe that women should tolerate violence, compared with 16% and 17% of those reporting their economic situation as good. Thus, it seems that the better their economic situation, the less Azerbaijanis tend to think that violence against women is justifiable.
Note: Answer options on economic situation were re-coded as follows: “very good” and “good” into “good” and “very poor” and “poor” into “poor”.
When it comes to the level of education, the most visible cleavage in relation to attitudes towards violence against women is between the people with higher education and everyone else. Not unexpectedly, people with higher education are less inclined to believe that women deserve to be beaten or that they should tolerate violence, compared to the rest of the population of Azerbaijan.
Note: Level of education was re-coded as follows: options “Vocational/technical degree”, “High school diploma (10 or 11 years)”, “Nine year diploma,” and “Did not obtain a nine year diploma” were combined into “High school/technical degree or lower,” and options “Bachelors degree/5 years diploma” and “Any degree above bachelors” were combined into “Bachelors degree/5 years diploma or higher”.
This blog post explored the attitudes of different socio-demographic groups in Azerbaijan towards violence against women, with a specific focus on domestic violence. The analysis showed that the more educated and the better off economically people are, the less they tend to believe that women should be beaten or that they should tolerate violence in order to keep their families together. The same is also true for women and people living in the urban settlements ̶ especially in the capital ̶ as opposed to men and people living in rural settlements of Azerbaijan.
What do you think are the attitudes of people in Georgia and Armenia towards violence against women? Join in the conversation on the CRRC Facebook page or in the comments section below.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
The first part of this blog post described the regional distribution of 2014 Unified Entrance Exam (UEE) mean scores in Georgia. Here in the second part, we look at applicants’ gender and location (as explained below) in order to understand how mean 2014 UEE scores differ by these variables. This post also considers the role and quality of teachers in these regional disparities.
A location variable was generated for the present analysis, based on the applicants’ municipality of registration. This variable breaks down the applicants into five groups: those coming from the capital, large cities (Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, Poti), municipalities in Western Georgia (including both urban and rural settlements), municipalities in Eastern Georgia (again, including both urban and rural settlements), and ‘other’ (IDPs and foreign-registered applicants). Although it is not possible to differentiate between urban and rural residents of the municipalities using UEE data, in general, municipalities included in the Eastern and Western Georgia groupings mainly consist of rural populations.
As descriptive analysis presented in the first part of this blog post showed, applicants from Tbilisi and large cities scored the highest. Applicants coming from ethnic minority municipalities and certain mountainous areas of Western Georgia received the lowest scores. In order to check whether regional differences are systematic or random, a statistical technique called Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was employed. ANOVA checks whether the mean score of the groups under analysis differ from each other and whether a difference is statistically significant. The ANOVA results show that the main effects of gender, F(1, 26311)= 136.43, p<0.001, and location, F(4, 26311)= 396.36, p<0.001 are significant factors in applicants’ exam scores, while the interaction of these two variables is not significant, F(4, 26311)=1.67, p=0.1531. Post-hoc analysis demonstrates that there are no significant differences between the scores of applicants from the municipalities of Western and Eastern Georgia.
As shown in the chart above, in all locations, female applicants had higher mean scores than males. Applicants from Tbilisi – both males and females – were the most successful. Residents of large urban areas performed better than applicants from predominantly rural municipalities. Finally, applicants from the ‘other’ group scored higher than those from predominantly rural municipalities.
Although, in general, female applicants scored better than males, the difference was not vast. Importantly, there are significant regional gaps between applicants, which are clearly revealed by UEE scores. A number of reasons likely contribute to this disparity.
To start, Georgia is characterized by endemic regional inequality, including uneven quality of education in the country. There is an especially large gap between large urban areas and predominantly rural municipalities. The lack of quality education and good teachers in rural areas is obvious from the results of international tests taken by schoolchildren (TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS). Although, in these tests, Georgian pupils, overall, score around or above world averages, the picture is bleaker when looking at the scores by settlement type.
In Georgia, there is generally a lack of good teachers – nationally, over 90% of teachers of certain disciplines failed their certification exams in 2013. Still, the low quality of teachers in rural areas is more pronounced. If we look at the statistics for pupils per certified teachers (i.e. teachers who have passed special exams and hence are considered better performers compared with their peers), we see that this number is highest in ethnic minority municipalities – that is, there are fewer certified teachers with more students. In Marneuli, Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki municipalities, there are one hundred or more pupils per certified teacher, while in Sachkhere municipality in Imereti the respective number is 25.
As school education, which should be instrumental in preparing pupils for university admission exams, appears to be inadequate, university applicants (and their parents) often hire private tutors rather than attend school in the final (11th and 12th) grades. Considering that private tutors are in many cases active teachers, the availability of quality tutors in rural areas is also lower, while better private tutors are found in the capital and large urban areas. This factor also contributes to regional disparities in UEE scores.
This series of blog posts explored the results of 2014 Unified Entrance Exams, taking into consideration regional and gender factors. Both descriptive and exploratory analysis shows that there are significant disparities between applicants, especially from the geographic point of view. While UEE was an excellent opportunity for many applicants who would not have had the chance to be accepted to a higher educational institution within the previous corrupt admissions system, certain segments of the population still do not enjoy equal opportunities, not because of the UEE per se, but due to the existing endemic problems that the Georgian secondary education system faces. In spite of its impressive success, the improved university admissions system has not tackled Georgia’s deep-rooted educational inequalities.
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