Monday, May 22, 2017

Air Pollution in Tbilisi: What the Data Says

[Note: This is a guest blog post by Dr. Hans Gutbrod, the former Director of CRRC.]

With the recent debate on traffic safety, it may also be a good time to highlight the issue of air pollution in Tbilisi – especially as municipal elections are coming up, and citizens (and candidates) may ask themselves what issues the election should focus on.

The data is clear: citizens care about pollution and the environment. In the June 2016 survey that CRRC conducted for NDI-Georgia, pollution was seen as a key concern for residents of Tbilisi. In the capital, 38% named it as one of the most important infrastructural issues, placing it ahead of all other issues related to infrastructure. In general, all generations care, but the young a bit more. In Tbilisi, about 40% of those under 36 years of age mentioned pollution as an issue compared to 32% of those 56 and older.

Politically, the topic also seems to resonate, though less strongly with voters who tend towards the big parties. Only 33% of Georgian Dream voters and 35% of United National Movement voters reported that pollution was the number one infrastructural issue in Tbilisi (Note: the party landscape has changed since the survey). This may in part be a result of the small sample size once you do crosstabs, but could also suggest that the environment and pollution may be an issue to mobilize and rally voters around. Supporting this contention is the fact that 40% of undecided voters in Tbilisi named the issue as the most important one in Tbilisi.

Yet how bad is the situation really? It is not so easy to find out. The government does collect data at three measuring stations that have been donated by Japan, but it is made available one day late, in PDFs, and even those who have interpreted lots of data will need a significant amount of time to decipher what is going on.

A very quick glance on some random days in February suggests that the pollution in Tbilisi repeatedly exceeds limits that are considered healthy – often by a multiple.

Whatever the policy prescription, one sensible next step for citizens and parties to demand, and for the government to take, is to make this data accessible straightaway, live. Having the data, citizens could decide on what to expose themselves to, when. To have a good debate on policy, we need good data. Thus, a sensible suggestion to politicians whenever and wherever you meet them is to request that public pollution data be made available in real time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Debts and Loans in Georgia (Part 2)

The first part of this blog post showed that people who report being in a worse economic situation are more likely to have debts in Georgia. In the second part of this blog post, a new variable is added to the analysis, “Does anyone owe you any money?”

While 46% of the population of Georgia report having debt, only 20% report that someone owes them money. In the latter, group, there are no differences by gender and settlement type, but there are differences by age. People between 36 and 55 years of age are more likely to say that someone owes them money. As seen in the first part of this blog post, people in this age group are also most likely to report they have personal debts.

The cross tabulation of the questions about having debt and being owed money shows that people who are owed money are slightly more likely to have debts.

A new variable, “Debts and Loans,” was created to group people into four categories based on the two CB questions discussed above.

Forty four percent of the population of Georgia are part of the largest group who report neither having debts nor being owed any money. These people are neither better off nor worse off compared to the population on average. The second largest group has debts but no one owes them money. They appear to be in the worst economic situation, with the greatest share of people saying they do not have enough money for food and for clothes in comparison to other groups. The two smallest groups are people who say someone owes them money. The two groups who have no debts appear to be in a relatively good economic situation, with the largest shares of people saying they can afford expensive durables.

Based on the findings presented in both parts of this blog post, debts are approximately twice as common in Georgia as being owed money. Yet, the largest share of the population of the country are those who report neither having debts, nor being owed money.

To look at these issues in more detail, explore the Caucasus Barometer data at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis platform.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Debts and Loans in Georgia (Part 1)

In Georgia, where, according to the World Bank, a third of the population live on under USD 2.5 per day, poverty and unemployment are consistently considered the most important issues facing the country. For those who are struggling financially, borrowing is a widespread coping mechanism. While access to credit can have benefits, debt can also have psychological costs, such as increased stress and anxiety. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data show interesting patterns about having personal debts in Georgia. The first part of this blog post focuses on the characteristics of those who report having personal debts in Georgia, while the second part looks at the money lending patterns, as well as reported well-being of people who are owed money or who borrow it.

In response to the question, “Do you currently have any personal debts?” which asks about all types of debt a person may have, 46% of the population report having debts and 53% say they do not have any. There are no large differences by settlement type. People between 36 and 55 years of age report having debts more frequently than people in other age groups. Men report they have debts slightly more often than women.

Note: The charts in this blog post do not include answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer,” which constituted 1% of responses.

People reporting a more difficult economic situation in their household are more likely to say they have debts. While 55% of people who state they do not have enough money for food report having debts, 28% of people who have enough money for durables report the same.

Note: Answer options “We can afford to buy some expensive durables like a refrigerator or washing machine” and “We can afford to buy anything we need” were combined into the category “Can afford to buy expensive durables” on the chart above.

In the second part of this blog post, which will be published on Monday, patterns of both borrowing and lending money will be discussed.

To have a closer look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis platform.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Rising expectations: People report more positive expectations about MPs immediately after elections

Research suggests that voters not only become more knowledgeable about political issues, but also more politically engaged during electoral campaigns. CRRC/NDI survey data also suggest that during the periods immediately following elections, there are more positive expectations about elected officials. These, however, do not last long after elections.

A citizen’s knowledge of which Member of Parliament (MP) represents her or him ebbs and flows with election cycles in Georgia. In March 2016, three and a half years after the most recent parliamentary elections in October 2012, only 31% of the population of Georgia answered correctly who their majoritarian member of parliament was at the time. A month after the October 2016 parliamentary elections, in November 2016, the respective share nearly doubled (57%). The findings before and after the 2012 parliamentary elections are similar. In the period between the elections, knowledge of which MP represented a constituent declined.

People’s expectations of their MPs also oscillate with the electoral cycle, with higher expectations immediately after elections. After both the October 2012 and October 2016 elections, the share of those reporting that MPs will serve people’s interests increased almost two-fold compared to early spring of the election year. Expectations that MPs will serve only their own interests have a tendency to decrease immediately after elections. However, they gradually increase later on. The expectations that MPs will do what their political party will tell them to also decrease immediately after the elections, although the gaps are smaller.

Note: In the survey waves from February 2012 through April 2014, the question was asked about majoritarian members of parliament. Since April 2015, the question was asked about members of parliament in general.

Positive expectations also increased after the October 2016 elections in respect to whether the newly elected MPs will take into account the opinions of regular people – “people like you,” as it was worded in the questionnaire. On the November 2016 survey, 63% either completely or somewhat agreed with this opinion, while the respective share was only 28% in March 2016, when the same question was asked about the MPs that were in office at the time.
This evidence suggests that people in Georgia become more optimistic about members of parliament in the months immediately following elections, believing that elected politicians will serve people’s interests. However, as time passes, they become disillusioned and their expectations become more skeptical.

To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How many Tetri are in a Lari? The importance of municipal statistics for good governance

[Note: This post was co-published with Eurasianet and authored by Koba Turmanidze, CRRC-Georgia's Director.] 

The government of Georgia committed itself to collect and publish policy-relevant data in a timely manner under the Open Government Partnership. Yet while most ministries and state agencies are happy to provide national-level statistics, they often fail to break them down to the municipal level. 

As a result, if you think about it in monetary terms, the current system means that officials do not know how many tetri are in a lari. 

Reliable municipal statistics can contribute to good governance in several important ways. First, municipal-level data can let citizens assess the quality of state services they receive compared to other municipalities, or to the national average. Second, municipal-level data can help policy makers improve the targeting of programs, and therefore, spend public money more efficiently. Third, it can help both government and citizens evaluate the successes and failures of municipal governance.

The following scenarios highlight the benefits of comprehensive data on a local level: 

Imagine you want to move from one town to another for a better job. You consider moving with your spouse and a child of school age. However, your spouse does not want to move, arguing that your town has much better public schools than the new one. In such cases, it would help if you could look at municipal-level education data to see if schools in the two towns are similar or different in terms of the student-teacher ratio, exam scores, the success rate on national examinations, etc. 

Imagine you are a civil servant and are working with an investor to build a new factory in a municipality. You want the factory to be built in the municipality where its social impact will be highest. To persuade the investor, you use municipal statistics to demonstrate that the municipality of your choice has high unemployment, yet its labor force is younger and better trained than in comparable municipalities. 

Imagine you are an analyst in a think tank and your task is to advise the government on whether to extend a poverty reduction program or not. The government claims the program helped to reduce poverty by two percentage points nationwide, but you have reasons to suspect that the reduction happened in certain settlements, whereas in others the program had a negligible impact. You look at relevant data on the program and poverty statistics, and conclude that the program’s effect across municipalities was truly unequal. Importantly, it made no difference in the most economically deprived communities. Therefore, you advise the government to redesign the program to improve its impact on the communities with the highest poverty rates, before pouring more money into it. 

Unfortunately, we can only imagine the above. These three scenarios remain purely hypothetical, since, in Georgia, reliable municipal data is rarely available on education, employment and poverty. 

CRRC-Georgia’s repeated interactions with a multitude of state agencies over the past three years have uncovered at least three problems regarding municipal data. First, when municipal data of potentially good quality exists, it is often not processed and made available to the public. Second, if municipal data is accessible, its quality is often questionable. Third, municipal data often does not exist at all, since the responsible agency does not recognize its value, or is unable to collect it due to lack of relevant training. 

Below are three concrete cases that correspond to these three problems: 

Case 1: Until recently, the National Assessment and Examination Center (NAEC) maintained detailed and high-quality data on the results of the Unified National Exams (UNE) for many years. The data allowed one to see which municipality’s and even school’s students were most successful in the exams. Such data was not proactively shared on the Center’s website, but was available upon request. The situation changed when the Center introduced electronic applicant registration in 2011. Under the new system, an applicant’s place of residence and school was no longer recorded. However, the Center could still identify the municipality based on an applicant’s ID number. 

For the 2015 UNE results, NAEC processed the data this way and made the data file available on its website. However, when CRRC-Georgia requested the same data for 2016, the Center turned the request down, arguing it no longer processed data per municipality, and would not do so for our sake. As a result, it is no longer possible to analyze municipal- or school-level performance and map it as we did in this blog post. At the time, this map drew attention to large differences in educational attainment countrywide, including an important fact – that Unified National Exam scores in Upper Ajara were among the worst in the country. In part in response to this fact, AGL, a Norwegian company building a hydro-electric dam in upper Ajara created a tutoring program for students in the region to help them prepare for the exams. If the NAEC withholds such data, it will hinder the ability of interested parties to spot trends and develop remedial policies.

Case 2: The Social Service Agency (SSA) is a leading organization in the country in terms of providing access to comprehensive data on poverty and targeted social assistance at the national and municipal levels. Among other statistics, the Agency reports monthly data on applicants and recipients of social aid. The 2014 census data, however, casts some doubt on whether the SSA poverty statistics are trustworthy. 

The scale of mismatch between the agency’s data and the 2014 census results is evident from the chart below. Using Geostat’s population estimates, the agency calculates the share of the population registered for targeted social assistance in each municipality. The census was conducted in November 2014, so it is possible to re-calculate the share of those registered for targeted social assistance based on the census data and compare it with the agency’s estimates. 

Let’s take the extreme case of Lentekhi. The agency reported that 44 percent of the population applied for targeted social assistance. When the census data is used, the finding is that 89 percent of Lentekhi residents registered for social assistance. Thus, the SSA estimate was 45 percentage points lower than the actual percentage. The chart below plots the differences between the shares of the population registered for targeted social assistance, as calculated and reported by the SSA on the one hand, and updated calculations based on the 2014 census data on the other, for each municipality in November 2014. Overall, the agency underestimated the share of applicants by 14 percentage points, on average. However, publicly available data has yet to be adjusted based on the 2014 census.    

Case 3: In a number of cases municipal statistics do not exist. Measuring the scale of economic activity (level of employment by employment sector, total value added, etc.) in every municipality would require large-scale surveys that are both time-consuming and expensive. Geostat’s periodic Integrated Household Survey cannot provide this information, due to the cost that such a large sample size would entail. 

However, the Revenue Service (RS) under the Ministry of Finance of Georgia could help solve this challenge. Based on taxpayers’ IDs, the agency can provide information about the number of taxpayers, be it individuals or organizations, and amount of taxes collected in each municipality. This information would serve as a good proxy of economic activity by municipality. However, as the RS told CRRC-Georgia, it can only break the data down for regions. Officials claimed that breaking the data down further was not possible. 

Undoubtedly, the collection and analysis of municipal data requires additional resources. However, the three concrete cases highlighted above show that a little increase in awareness regarding municipal data could go a long way toward promoting better municipal governance in important ways. Investors could have clearer insight into the best investment destinations, for one. Civil society groups would also have better ways to assess the successes and failures of government actions. Citizens likewise would have a better idea of where their place of residence stands compared to other parts of the country, or the national average. Government could have better tools to ensure equal access to services in the country, or to achieve efficiencies in the provision of services. 

All of this is possible. Unfortunately, it is not reality. And as a result, the government doesn’t know how many tetri are in a lari.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why the civil service? The civil service as seen by civil servants in Georgia

The civil service plays an important role in the development of a country. Thus the competence and motivation of civil servants matter. An online survey of civil servants conducted by CRRC-Georgia for NATO-PDP in December 2015 – January 2016 was one of the first attempts in Georgia to study civil servants’ perceptions of and attitudes towards their job. This blog post provides a brief overview of some of the findings, focusing on reported reasons for choosing to work in the civil service, the advantages and problems civil servants see with their jobs, as well as general assessments of civil servants’ motivation to work.

Slightly over a half of civil servants (56%) reported that the main reason they chose their job was an interest in working in the public sector. Forty-five percent hoped to improve their professional skills. The third most frequently named reason was a hope to improve the situation in their field. Importantly, a rather small share of civil servants (18%) reported a “stable job” as a reason for choosing to work in the civil service, and only 2% named an “attractive salary”.

About half of civil servants named the opportunity to contribute to the development of the country as the main advantage of working in the civil service. The opportunity to acquire new professional skills was the second most frequent answer, while the opportunity to make new connections, work one’s way up within the organization, and work with competent colleagues were named rarely.

Civil servants most frequently assessed the motivation to work of those in the civil service as average (50%). Positive assessments, though, are much more frequent than negative ones (36% vs 15%).

Note: To a certain extent, in response to most of the questions in this survey, civil servants tended to pick answers that can be considered socially desirable. Hence, social desirability bias is likely to have affected other responses as well, including assessments of other civil servants’ motivation to work. In order to avoid this bias in the case of this question, a very general wording was used: “How would you assess civil servants’ motivation to work?” This question measures civil servants’ reported perceptions of their colleagues’ motivation. To a certain extent, social desirability bias likely still influenced responses. However, this influence should be less than if the question had been asked about the respondent herself. 

Should the 50% of “average” assessments be considered a problem? Probably. The state invests financial resources in the improvement of civil servants’ professional skills, and the country, overall, is interested in a high productivity of their work. Undoubtedly, motivation encourages productivity. Thus, higher motivation will also lead to a more efficient use of public resources.

While trying to increase civil servants’ motivation in Georgia, it is important to consider the problems they face. The most frequently named problem is a lack of professionally competent civil servants. A fear of losing one’s job and poor infrastructure come in second and third, followed by a fair number of other problems.

Addressing these problems may improve civil servants’ motivation to work. As a result, the country would benefit from higher productivity among civil servants.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Proposed Reform Could Tilt Electoral Field Toward Incumbents

Irakli Kobakhidze, Speaker of Georgian Parliament, recently outlined proposed constitutional changes. Among them is a switch to a fully proportional electoral system, which civil society groups have long argued for. But this possible switch could tamp down on political competition.

This pending reform would produce two major changes besides the nixing of the first-past-the-post component: the first would re-allocate votes for parties that fail to clear the 5-percent electoral threshold (the percentage needed for a party to gain representation in parliament) to the leading party; the second, which is ironic coming from a party that came to power as a coalition, would prohibit parties from forming electoral coalitions. Taken together, some experts have cautioned that the proposed rules-changes could tilt the electoral playing field in favor of the incumbents, and thus would mark a setback for civil society.

In order to test the claim that the proposed reforms could skew democratic development in Georgia, and how the changes might affect future elections, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers calculated how seats would have been distributed among parties in the past three legislative elections.

The CRRC model looks at three variants, including the mixed system that Georgia currently uses, one which distributes seats through a coalition of a party-list vote, and first-past-the-post races. The CRRC model also applies the criteria that the parliament speaker proposed March 21, under which there is only the proportional, party-list vote, along with the re-allocation rule that gives the leading party the votes received by parties that fail to clear the 5-percent hurdle. In addition, the CRRC model shows how MP seats would be distributed on the basis of a proportional-vote system only with a 5 percent threshold, but without the re-allocation provision.

The CRRC model shows that in the 2008 and 2016 elections, during which there was only one strong party in the country, the incumbent party would have ended up with roughly the same number of seats under the current mixed system and the proportional-only system with the re-allocation rule. The incumbents would lose a significant number of seats, yet still retain a safe majority, under the system of proportional voting without re-allocation.

There would seem to be a genuine danger that the proposed rules changes would give the incumbents a decided advantage in a race in which two parties are otherwise evenly matched.

The 2012 election underscores this point. That race, which matched the Georgian Dream against United National Movement (UNM), was close and intense. When the results are run through the CRRC model, the parliament would have almost the same seat allocation under a fully proportional system as under the current mixed system. However, if the votes for parties that didn’t clear the 5-percent hurdle were re-allocated as Speaker Kobakhidze suggested, it would favor the winner, when compared to a proportional system without the re-allocation rule.

While the proportional system Georgian Dream proposes might appear to mark an improvement over the current system in some cases, under circumstances where there is a high level of political fragmentation, such as is currently the case, the changes would provide a significant boost to incumbent authority.

To highlight this phenomenon, a detailed look at the 1995 Georgian parliamentary elections is useful. In the 1995 vote, over 50 parties vied for seats in the legislature and 62 percent of ballots were cast for parties that didn’t clear the 5-percent hurdle, and thus were ineligible for representation in parliament. Had the electoral system in 1995 been the one that the Georgian Dream is currently advocating, rather than 107 seats, the Citizens Union of Georgia would have won 187 seats in what was a 235-member legislature.

The Georgian Dream, which came to office as an electoral coalition, is also proposing a ban on electoral coalitions. This rule in combination with wasted votes being allocated to the winner is likely to further benefit incumbents.

Each party would either have to run independently, or form a new political party to run together in elections. In practice, this rule obstructs electoral consolidation, which often promotes the formation of stable parliaments in a genuinely pluralistic system. If implemented in its current form, it is likely the new rule would increase the number of seats in parliament awarded to the party with the largest share of the vote.

Even without this change, Georgia’s political parties have already been fragmenting in recent years. The Georgian Dream was once a six-party coalition, but now consists of a single large party (the Georgian Dream) and two minor parties (the Conservatives and the Social Democrats). The remaining parties that formed the original coalition are now independent. Meanwhile, the United National Movement (UNM) has broken up into a number of parties, starting with the 2012-2016 parliament, when UNM members split to form Girchi and New Georgia, and more recently, when a majority of the party’s MPs broke off to establish the Movement for Freedom - European Georgia.

Another matter of potential concern is the question of dark money in the electoral system. It’s possible that incumbents, acting through shadowy intermediaries, could potentially provide assistance to small parties in order to draw votes away from potential competitors. This strategy has already been part of political competition in Georgia. When the UNM controlled parliament, for example, the Christian Democrat party was effectively a satellite party. This strategy may have also been at play in some of the splits from the United National Movement. Both Girchi and New Georgia, after splitting off from the UNM, were able to immediately open up a large number of offices throughout the country. It remains unclear where the money came from to afford such a significant expense.

The proposed electoral reforms could face opposition from civil society, and President Giorgi Margvelashvili could veto them. However, the Georgian Dream holds a constitutional majority in Georgian parliament, meaning it could overturn a veto, as MPs did in response to past vetoes.

For Georgia’s democratic political system to become stronger, the consolidation of parties, not further fragmentation, is needed. The proposed changes to the electoral system are unlikely to encourage consolidation, and instead seem to provide lots of incentives to encourage the continued fragmentation of the political landscape. At best, the proposed changes are two steps forward and one step back. At worst, they could squash political competition in Georgia.

To view the data used in this article, click here.

[Note: This post was originally published on Liberali in Georgian and on Eurasianet in English. Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. David Sichinava is a Senior Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia.]

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Safer transport options for passengers: Recommendations

In the previous blog posts in this series (see here, here, here, and here), we reported the design and results of a randomized control trial on minibus safety in Georgia. In this blog post, we provide recommendations for the Government of Georgia based on the results of the experiment. First, we recommend that the Government:
  • Create an anonymous minibus monitoring program
Telling minibus drivers that they are being monitored for safe driving and may be punished for safety-violations may lead to safer, less distracted driving. The results of the experiment suggest such a program would likely be effective. This suggests that the government has an opportunity to implement a small program, which could have an important impact on making minibus driving safer and reduce the number of accidents related to dangerous driving. If the government does in fact implement such a program, we recommend that the program:
  • Fine unsafe minibus drivers
While our experiment could not test the impact of a potential fine for unsafe driving, the behavioral economics literature suggests that individuals are roughly twice as likely to avoid losses as they are to seek out gains. Given that losses have stronger effects, this is also likely to ensure that there actually is an overall effect of the program. Importantly, this may offset costs associated with the program.
  • Publicize the program in the lead up to implementation
Minibus drivers should be made aware of the program. If they do not know that they could be monitored, the program will be slower to encourage safe driving.
  • Select routes for monitoring randomly on a daily basis
This would help prevent drivers from driving artificially safely in order to avoid a fine on a trip when they believe a monitor to be present based on prior information.
  • Use few monitors, and change them regularly
The success of such a monitoring program relies on monitors being able to maintain their anonymity. In a country like Georgia, with a small population and dense social networks, maintaining monitor anonymity will be challenging. Hence, the government should consider drawing monitors from one of the civil service agencies with a relatively large staff. The Ministry of Internal Affairs Patrol Police Department would likely be an ideal institution given that patrol police officers are already aware of road safety legislation, and there are a sufficiently large number of officers who could participate in the program on a rolling basis.

The above recommendations are likely to help improve the safety of marshutka driving in Georgia. With less distracted and dangerous driving on Georgia’s roads, the high level of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on roadways are likely to decline. Ultimately, such a policy is likely to lead to safer transport options for passengers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Safer transport options for passengers: Immediate, lasting, and contagion effects

As the last two blog posts in this series have described, CRRC-Georgia carried out a randomized control trial on minibus safety. This post reports the results of the experiment, and specifically whether there were immediate effects of being monitored, lasting effects on drivers which were monitored, and whether drivers who were not aware that they were being monitored ended up driving safer as a result of contagion effects i.e. drivers talking to each other about the monitoring. Overall, the results suggest that a small minibus monitoring program is likely to decrease dangerous driving behaviors in Georgia.

Did active knowledge that an individual was being monitored matter? To find out, we compare the control group from the first wave with the treatment group observations from the second wave. The statistical analysis suggests that drivers made 1.4 fewer calls per trip, smoked 1.5 fewer cigarettes, made 2.2 fewer illegal passes, and 2 fewer aggressive maneuvers on average. Overall, in the group that was directly aware that it was being monitored, there were 7.2 fewer incidents on average per trip. Other measures such as speed and seat belt non-use did not decline or increase in a statistically significant manner.

Based on these statistics we can conclude that direct knowledge of being monitored lead to fewer distracted and other dangerous driving behaviors. However, did these effects last? To understand whether direct knowledge of being monitored and that one would again be monitored had a lasting effect, we compare the results of the drivers who knew they were being monitored to roughly two weeks later when they did not know they were being monitored. In this case, a lasting effect is present if there was a statistically significant decline in a behavior in the first round of monitoring, and no significant change in the second round of monitoring.

Data analysis suggests that drivers who knew they would be monitored maintained lower levels of smoking, telephone conversations, illegal passing, aggressive maneuvers, and number of incidents overall. However, it is important to note that the drivers did drive less safely than they did when they were aware of being monitored. The differences between waves are however not statistically significant, suggesting that drivers did in fact drive safer roughly two weeks after being aware that they were being observed and would be again.

When it comes to contagion, the results of the statistical tests uniformly show no significant change except for in speed. Given that this is one in ten tests and that there was no significant effect from the first wave of monitoring on speed, we suspect that this test may have been found to be significant based on chance or other extraneous factors.

The table below presents the average treatment effect on the treated for each indicator with Abadie Imbens standard errors in parenthesis. On the line following the indicator name, 95% confidence intervals are provided. One star indicates that the estimate has less than a one in twenty chance of being due to chance alone. Two stars indicates that the estimate has less than a one in one hundred chance of being due to chance alone, and three stars indicates that the estimate has less than a one in one thousand chance of being due to chance alone. No stars indicates no significant difference.

Based on the above statistics we can conclude that direct knowledge of being monitored led to fewer distracted and other dangerous driving behaviors. However, the combination of the lack of significant contagion effect in combination with the increased but not significant increase between treatment groups suggests that a comparison of descriptive statistics is important to gain a sense of whether there was a lasting effect. The table below shows the average of each indicator given above in each group of the experiment.

The average indicator for the third wave of treatment and control group observations are quite similar. The similarity between means suggests one of two things. First, there may have been a small contagion effect since the levels are lower than in the first round control as well as a lasting effect that was not statistically significant. Supporting this conclusion is that both second wave means are lower than the mean in the first observation of the control group. The second possibility, however, is a lack of lasting effect and that an external factor caused the lowering of indicators during the third wave of observation.

Overall, the results of the experiment suggest that direct knowledge of being observed lowers the number of dangerous and distracted driving behaviors by a significant amount. This experience may have a lasting effect on drivers. What does this mean for the policy we proposed in the previous post, and what can the government do based on this information? In the next post, we provide recommendations for the government based on the information presented in this post.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Safer transport options for passengers: A Nudge on Marshutka Safety

Within the auspices of the Safer Transit Options for Passenger’s project, CRRC-Georgia carried out a randomized control trial, attempting to test whether a small policy change could make a large difference to minibus driving safety in Georgia. What was that small change, and how did we measure whether it might matter? This blog post provides an overview of both the policy to be tested and how we measured whether it could work.

The policy

A potentially simple way of decreasing distracted and other dangerous driving practices among minibus drivers is to use anonymous monitoring combined with penalties for dangerous driving. Under such a policy, the government would hire a small number of monitors to ride on randomly selected minibuses throughout the country without informing the drivers. After the ride, the monitor would report on any serious road safety violation as well as the number of distracted driving activities and safety violations carried out. If the driver committed serious traffic violations fines could be given out.

This policy would encourage safe driving and discourage dangerous driving. Moreover, it would require a relatively limited amount of funds from the government. Assuming that only 10 monitors are engaged in the program and they work 200 days a year, they could easily make up to 4000 trips, covering the majority, if not every, minibus route in the country. By randomly assigning monitors to different routes, minibus drivers would not be able to predict whether they are or would be monitored on any given trip. Hence, with the credible risk of being fined, drivers would likely drive safer.

Testing the theory

While the above policy, in theory, is quite sound, practice and theory often diverge. Hence, in order to test whether the policy would in fact be effective, CRRC-Georgia carried out a randomized control trial, which tested whether the knowledge that drivers might be monitored for safe driving and drivers could receive an award might improve their driving in late 2016.

Randomized control trials are a research design that comes from medical research. When doctors are attempting to understand whether a new medicine is effective, they randomly assign whether a patient gets the new drug or a placebo. Randomization is used to try to eliminate whether confounding factors that may make the medicine (in)effective for different individuals are distributed equally between the groups that receive the medicine and the placebo. Following this logic, for the STOP experiment, we randomly assigned minibus drivers to either a treatment or control group.

While in medicine, a treatment is, well a medical treatment, in our case information and action functioned as treatments. Minibus drivers that were assigned to the treatment group were told that they were being observed on a number of driving safety measures, and that the safest drivers would be awarded a gas voucher.  Importantly, as an NGO, we could not make a credible claim about the issuance of fines. Hence, we were unable to fully test the effectiveness of the proposed policy above. Notably, we would expect the issuance of fines for unsafe driving to be a stronger incentive for individuals to drive safer, because people are usually more averse to losses than prone to seeking gains, a phenomenon psychologists refer to as loss aversion.

Between September 20th and October 20th, CRRC-Georgia interviewers observed 360 minibus trips in three waves of observation. In the first wave of observation, minibus routes which had been randomly selected were observed without telling the driver that they were being monitored. This group forms the study’s control group. In the second wave of observation, routes assigned to the treatment group were observed. In the third wave of observation, observers returned to both the control and treatment minibuses for anonymous observation.

Minibus drivers in the treatment group who drive along similar routes were informed that:

  1. Their trip would be monitored for safety along a number of dimensions;
  2. A monitor would return in the coming weeks and monitor their driving as well as other drivers again without telling them;
  3. If they were found to be among the safest drivers, they would be rewarded with a petrol voucher.
Over the course of the trip, monitors in all three waves recorded how many times drivers:
  1. Smoked;
  2. Text messaged;
  3. Had telephone conversations;
  4. Did not wear a seat belt;
  5. Passed in areas it was not legal to do so;
  6. Made other aggressive driving maneuvers;
  7. Behaved aggressively towards passengers;
  8. Behaved aggressively towards non-passengers.
Monitors also recorded stop and travel time, whether additional seats were added to the bus, whether passengers stood during the ride as well as a number of characteristics about the state of the minibus. Following the trip, the average speed of travel was calculated.

The above research design allows for a number of comparisons. First, by comparing the first wave control group to the second wave treatment group, we can test how the direct knowledge that one is being observed for safe driving effects driver safety. Second, by comparing the second wave treatment group to the third wave treatment group, we are able to tell whether the knowledge that one might be monitored again in the near future would have some lasting effect. Third, by comparing drivers in the first wave control group to drivers in the third wave control group, we can tell whether there was a contagion effect from the experiment i.e., whether the treated drivers talked to the non-treated drivers about the monitoring and they in turn also became safer drivers.

To test for the above types of effects, we used multivariate matching with genetic weights and calculations of average treatment on the treated (ATT). For readers interested in these methods, please see here. Using these methods, we calculate both the size of an effect and the probability that it emerged by chance alone.

In the next post in this series, which will appear tomorrow, we report the results of the experiment.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Safer transport options for passengers: Distracted and dangerous driving among minibuses

Over the course of this week, CRRC-Georgia will publish the results of a randomized control trial on minibus safety. While the introduction post to this series highlighted that Georgia’s roadways are dangerous, just how dangerous minibus drivers are has largely been left undescribed. As part of the Safer Transport Options for Passengers project, CRRC-Georgia collected data on dangerous and distracted driving practices on minibuses. This blog post reports descriptive statistics about distracted and dangerous driving from drivers unaware that they were being monitored.

While estimates do not exist for Georgia for how many accidents are caused by distracted and other dangerous driving practices, they are very likely contribute to the high fatality rates on the roads in Georgia. When it comes to distracted driving alone, studies from other contexts suggest that a distracted driver’s chances of being in an accident are four times higher. Cell phone use is associated with increased incidence of accidents among both novice and experienced drivers. Importantly, commercial vehicle drivers are no exception, with increased risk of accident associated with distracted driving among commercial drivers.

Overall, among minibus drivers unaware of being monitored, 96% engaged in some form of poor driving behavior, with illegal passes being the most common, followed by making telephone calls, and other aggressive driving maneuvers. Notably, few drivers were observed text messaging while driving. While we cannot claim that the data presented here is representative, for technical reasons, it is highly suggestive of the high prevalence of dangerous and distracted driving practices among minibuses on Georgia’s roadways.

The graph below presents the average number of times a driver engaged in a dangerous driving behavior as well as the maximum value for each indicator. Although the minimum value was 0 for each indicator, the high values for the maximums suggest that some drivers are particularly prone to dangerous driving, with as many as 62 dangerous events observed in a single trip.

The above statistics suggest that distracted and dangerous driving are common problems among minibus drivers in Georgia. In order to help ameliorate the situation, CRRC-Georgia tested whether a simple minibus monitoring policy would decrease the prevalence of dangerous and distracted driving. In subsequent posts in this series, we report the results of the randomized control trial, which suggest that such a program would in fact be effective.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New OECD/CRRC-Georgia report calls for more coherent migration management in Georgia

From 2013 to 2016, the OECD Development Centre coordinated a EU-funded project on Interrelations between Public Policies, Migration and Development (IPPMD) in ten developing countries including Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Haiti, Morocco and the Philippines. The project collected empirical data to assess the development potential of migration in these countries and develop policy recommendations that would help make the most of this potential. Project findings for Georgia were presented during the launch of the report in Tbilisi on March 28, 2017.

(1)Opening remarks by Mr. Kaido Sirel, Deputy Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Georgia.
(2)OECD's Jason Gagnon presenting major findings of the project in Georgia
(3) CRRC Researcher Mariam Kobaladze and conference participants during a break out session.

In Georgia, IPPMD project’s key partners were the State Commission on Migration Issues of Georgia and CRRC-Georgia. The focus of the project was the impact of emigration, remittances and return migration, on agriculture, the labour market, education and investment/financial services. Within the project, a total of 2260 households were interviewed nationwide, including 972 households with migrant members (current or return international migrants) and 1288 households without such members. In addition, 71 comminity interviews were conducted with representatives of local authorities and community leaders, and 27 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders representing civil society, international organizations and academic institutions.

While, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), total migrant stock from Georgia decreased through the 2000s, according to the latest census data, 24% of those born in Georgia currently live abroad. As the IPPMD report claims, “[e]migration … can … benefit the country by relieving a congested labour market, providing opportunities for women to increase their economic independence and generating incentives to upgrade skills. However, realising these positive impacts depends on the right conditions being in place,” i.e. efficient evidence-based policies.

The IPPMD survey collected impressive empirical data that allows us to compare emigrant and non-emigrant households in Georgia. Accodring to the IPPMD data, emigrants from Georgia are younger compared to the average age of household members remaining in Georgia – respectively, 42 and 47 years old. Unsurprisingly, 80% of current emigrants are reported to have left in search of work.

IPPMD data also provides interesting and up to date insights about the role of international remittances for households in Georgia. According to the World Bank, remittances constitute 12% of Georgian GDP. About USD 2 billion was estimated to be remitted to Georgia in 2014, up from about USD 300 million in 2004. The development potential of remittances is, however, not fully used, since the remittances are mostly used on consumption or real estate for the households’ personal use. A very small share of remittances is allocated for productive investments. They do, however, tend to increase expenditures on household members’ education.

The IPPMD report argues that the development potential of remittances can be increased if relevant policies are in place. According to the IPPMD findings, households that report receiving remittances are more likely to also have a bank account in urban settlements, but not in rural settlements. This finding calls for the development of the formal banking sector in rural settlements, and also for offering cheaper and faster formal money transfer channels. The report further argues that “[t]raining those who receive remittances in using money transfer operators and financial services more effectively may help to lower the costs and to use remittances in a more productive way. The IPPMD data show that very few households … (1%) have participated in a financial training programme in the past five years.” The so-called social remittances of migration, i.e. knowledge and experiences that the migrants bring back to the country, are no less important, and their role could also be crucial for the country’s development.

The State Commission on Migration Issues of Georgia has been coordinating migration management since 2010. Continuing to integrate migration-related issues into major policy documents, including the national development strategy, and thus developing a more coherent policy framework, will help to use the development potential of migration more effectively.

The report this blog is based on is available here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Safer transport options for passengers: Series introduction

Complaints about minibus (marshutka) driving are common in Georgia. From excessive speeds, to erratic and distracted driving, minibus travel in Georgia is often less than safe and comfortable. But could a small change make an important difference in passenger safety and comfort? At CRRC-Georgia, we wanted to find out. Hence, CRRC-Georgia together with the Fund Partnership for Road Safety carried out the Safer Transit Options for Passengers (STOP) project within the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Within the project, we carried out a randomized control trial, which tested whether a small incentive – a gas voucher for safe driving – and telling minibus drivers that they would be monitored could improve marshutka driving. In the coming weeks, we will report the results of the randomized control trial and institutional analysis carried out within the project. In today’s post, we provide some background on road safety in Georgia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Georgia has among the highest death rates on roadways in the wider European space.* The problem also appears to be getting worse: official figures from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia show an increasing number of deaths on Georgian roadways. From 2013 to 2016, deaths increased from 514 to 602, a 17% increase. In 2016, 6,939 accidents took place, resulting in 602 fatalities and 9,951 injuries. At a per capita rate, this amounts to approximately 162 fatalities per million citizens, over three times the EU average in 2015, the latest year in which data is available.

While estimates do not exist for Georgia for how many accidents are caused by distracted and other dangerous driving practices, they are very likely contribute to the high fatality rates on the roads in Georgia. In the study we carried out, 96% of minibus drivers in the control group observations engaged in some form of dangerous or distracted driving.

When it comes to distracted driving, studies from other contexts suggest that a distracted driver’s chances of being in an accident are four times higher. Cell phone use is associated with increased incidence of accidents among both novice and experienced drivers. Cell phones aside, other distractions such as smoking can increase the risk of traffic accidents. Importantly, commercial vehicle drivers are no exception, with increased risk of accident associated with distracted driving among commercial drivers as well.

While we know that distracted and other dangerous driving practices among Georgia’s minibus drivers are both common and likely to be leading to fatalities in Georgia, feasible and effective policies are needed to reduce the scale of traffic accidents on Georgia's roadways. In the coming posts, we put forward a number of evidence based policy recommendations that could help do just that.

*Note: This blog post previously erroneously stated that Georgia had among the worst traffic death rates in the world, based on another article. After checking a primary data source, this statistic likely refers to the fact that Georgia has among the highest death rate in wider Europe.

Monday, March 20, 2017

43% of the Georgian public support more women in parliament

In Georgia, women are in few political decision making positions. Following the October 2016 elections, women hold 16% of the seats in parliament, the highest percent in the country’s history. Nonetheless, Georgia ranks 119th in the world when it comes to women’s representation in parliament.

Since 2014, there have been debates in Georgia about the introduction of a gender quota for electoral lists. In 2015, parliament started to discuss a proposal by the Task Force on Women’s Political Participation. Although the initiative was ultimately voted down in December 2016, the results of CRRR/NDI surveys conducted in March and June 2016 suggest that approximately equal shares of the population believe that increasing the number of female members of parliament (MPs) would either have a positive impact on the country (43%), or will have no impact (39%).

There is nearly no differences by gender in the responses.

The differences between the opinions of people living in different settlement types are within the average margin of error. Approximately equal shares of the residents of the capital, other urban settlements, rural settlements and ethnic minority settlements report that having more women in parliament will have a positive impact on Georgia. At the same time, shares of those choosing other answer options vary, especially so in ethnic minority settlements.

A majority (71%) think the best proportion of men and women in parliament would be higher than at present.

Many in Georgia think that having more female MPs will have a positive impact on the country, although almost the same share of the population believes that this will have no impact. Nearly equal shares of men and women think that increasing the number of women in parliament would have a positive impact on the country. This belief is consistent in different settlement types.

All the above, taken together, suggests that the Georgian public would likely support, or at least not oppose, more women in parliament. Given that the government committed itself to further electoral system reform and the Georgian public wants more women in parliament, the government should continue to consider the inclusion of gender quotas in electoral lists.

To explore the data in greater depth, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Reported attitudes towards domestic violence in Georgia

Recently, there have been reports of homicides of spouses, children, siblings, and parents in Georgia. The October 2014 CRRC/NDI survey provides insights into what the population of Georgia thinks about domestic violence in general.

A majority (64%) of people in Georgia agree that non-physical violence that happens within the family (such as pressure, restrictions, and verbal abuse) should be resolved within the family, while 39% say the same about physical violence. People living in rural settlements are more likely to say that both physical and non-physical violence should be resolved within the family, compared to people who live in the capital.

Compared to older people, the younger generation is slightly less likely to agree that either physical or non-physical violence are issues that should be resolved within the family. Fifty eight percent of people aged between 18 and 35 years old agree that non-physical violence should be resolved within the family, while 68% of people 56 and older state the same. As for physical violence, 35% of the population between the ages 18 and 35 agree that it should be resolved within the family. Among those who are 56 and older, 45% say the same.

When it comes to gender differences, women are slightly more likely to disagree that physical violence should be resolved within the family (59% of women compared to 48% of men). People with tertiary education are more likely to disagree that physical violence should be resolved within the family, compared to people with secondary or lower education. Forty-five percent of people with secondary or lower education agree that physical violence should be resolved within the family, while only 32% of people with tertiary education state the same. There are no significant gender or education-level differences in relation to attitudes towards non-physical violence.

The survey also asked which groups of people and/or institutions should be authorized to intervene in cases of domestic violence, although the type of violence (physical vs non-physical) was not specified in this case. A large majority of the population thinks family members should be authorized to intervene. Smaller shares, though still a majority, think the courts, patrol police, psychologists, priests or relatives should be authorized to intervene. Notably, people are least likely to say that social workers, friends or neighbors should be authorized to intervene.

Note: A separate question was asked for each group/institution.

Compared to men, women were more likely to say that each of the groups and institutions asked about should be authorized to intervene.

Younger people and residents of Tbilisi report more often that these groups or institutions should be authorized to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Compared to those who are older, younger people are more likely to think that courts (75%), psychologists (74%), priests (69%) and social workers (62%) should be authorized to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Among people who are 56 and older, respectively, 67%, 62%, 62%, and 55% report the same. Similarly, people living in the capital are more likely to think courts (78%), the patrol police (77%), psychologists (75%), priests (74%), social workers (65%) and friends (63%) should be authorized to intervene in cases of domestic violence, while, respectively, 67%, 67%, 68%, 63%, 55%, and 56% of the rural population report the same.

A majority of the population of Georgia reports that non-physical violence is an issue that should be resolved within the family. When it comes to physical violence, people are less likely to agree that it should be resolved within the family. People living in the capital and younger people are less likely to agree that any type of domestic violence should be resolved within the family, compared to those residing in rural settlements and older people. Women and people with tertiary education are more likely to disagree that physical violence is an issue that should be resolved within the family, while there is no difference between males and females, as well people with different educational attainment when it comes to non-physical violence. A majority of people think that family members, courts and patrol police, among other individuals and institutions, should be authorized to intervene in cases of domestic violence.

To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Why Georgian women need rights instead of flowers

[Note: This post was written by Natia Mestvirishvili, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at CRRC-Georgia and a Researcher at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The post was co-published in English with Eurasianet and in Georgian with Liberali.]

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th. In Georgia many women receive flowers on this day. Instead, some are asking for protection of their rights.

This data highlights the situation of and attitudes towards women in Georgia, based on official statistics and public opinion research:

Gender based violence starts in Georgia even before a girl is born: 
If and when she is born, she grows up in a society where:
  • 22% consider a university degree to be more important for a boy than for a girl;
  • 57% believe that it is not acceptable for a woman of any age to drink hard alcohol such as vodka or brandy;
  • 81% think that it is not acceptable for a woman of any age to smoke tobacco;
  • 56% think that it is not acceptable for a woman of any age to live apart from their parents before marriage;
  • 69% believe that it is never justified for a woman to have sexual relationships before marriage; 
  • 57% believe that it is never justified for a woman to give birth to a child without being married.
Then she gets married and hears that:
She will then become a mother in a country where:
  • The maternal mortality rate is the worst in Eastern European and neighboring countries;
  • 65% of people believe that “it is better for a preschool aged child if the mother does not work”;
  • One in three disagree that “employed mothers can be as good caregivers to their children as mothers who do not work”;
  • 74% believe that a woman is more valued for her family than for success in her career.
If she perseveres and gets a job, she will:
  • Earn 39% less than men, on average.
  • Have difficulties in career progression since one in five people think that women are not as good at decision making as men and nearly one in five men would feel uncomfortable with a woman as their immediate boss.
If she ever has problems with her husband:
All these findings, and the sexism that underlies them, are likely accountable for the fact that there have been more than 60 gender-based murders or attempted murders of women in the past two years in Georgia. But the human rights committee of the parliament of Georgia has rejected a proposal that would define femicide as a premeditated murder of a woman based on her gender.

And still, every fifth person in the country says there is gender equality in Georgia.

The list of issues presented above is by no means exhaustive, but rather provides an overview of data which contributes to an understanding of perceived gender roles in Georgia.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Are there ways to encourage young people to vote?

During the 2016 parliamentary election campaign in Georgia a political party released a commercial encouraging young people to participate in the upcoming elections. As the commercial claimed, in order to change the current political situation, where political parties use populist promises in an attempt to attract older, politically more active voters, younger voters need to turn up at the voting booth and have their say. However, as in 2012, a relatively small share of younger voters participated in the 2016 elections.

According to the results of the CRRC/NDI post-electoral November 2016 survey, there is a generational gap between voters in Georgia. During both the October 8 parliamentary elections and the October 30 run offs in 2016, people who were between 18 and 35 years old reported voting less than older people.

Note: In almost all countries, there is a considerable difference between self-reported voter turnout as seen in survey findings and official turnout. The most widespread explanation for this fact is social desirability bias i.e., when respondents who did not vote are embarrassed to admit it. Thus, they report that they voted. The same difference is observed in surveys conducted in Georgia, including the CRRC/NDI post-electoral survey. 

A number of surveys suggest that young people in Georgia are indifferent towards politics. For instance, those who are younger report discussing politics and current events with friends and close relatives less frequently compared to those who are older. As the chart below shows, though, the reported lack of interest in politics was not the most frequently named reason why people of any age group did not vote. Notably, voters under the age of 56 frequently reported that they were registered to vote in a different settlement than the one they live in, and could not go to their precinct on election day.

Note: The question was asked to the 23% of respondents who reported they did not vote in the October 8th parliamentary elections and the October 30th runoff. Answer options "I wasn’t registered", "I didn’t know where my polling station was", and "I couldn’t decide how to vote" were combined in the category “Other”. 

A lack of interest in politics and low levels of political participation among young people is common not only in Georgia, but in many countries. A number of complex issues are believed to explain this phenomenon e.g., not having much of a stake in society or preferring other types of activities to express their political and social views. Still, the reported reasons for not voting are very similar in Georgia for young people and those who are 36 to 55 years old. Certain practical steps could help increase turnout in these age groups e.g., absentee ballots or the introduction of online voting. Importantly, as the Minister of Justice of Georgia has already noted, the country has the technical capacity to launch an online voting system. This could encourage more people to vote, and potentially not only the young ones.

What else might encourage young people to vote? Join the discussion on our Facebook or Twitter. To explore the CRRC/NDI November 2016 survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trends in the data: Changing attitudes towards divorce in Georgia

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer data show that assessments of whether divorce can or cannot be justified are changing in Georgia. This blog post looks at this trend, and at how these assessments differ by gender, age, and settlement type.

The share of those who report that divorce can be justified has increased since 2011, while the share of those who think divorce cannot be justified decreased, as did the share of those who answered “Don’t know”. Notably, both men and women report similar assessments (2011, 2013, 2015).

Note: The original 10-point scale was re-coded into a 3-point scale, with original codes 1 through 4 labeled “Cannot be justified”, codes 5 and 6 labeled “Neutral”, and codes 7 through 10 labeled “Can be justified” on the chart above.

Unsurprisingly, residents of Tbilisi report more frequently that divorce can be justified, compared to people living outside the capital. Outside Tbilisi, the most frequent responses are that divorce cannot be justified. In Tbilisi “neutral” assessments became most frequent in 2015.

Although people who are 56 and older report most often that divorce cannot be justified, such assessments have gradually become less common even for people in this age group, decreasing by nine percentage points since 2011. The sharpest decrease is among those who are between 36 and 55 years old.

Overall, the opinion that divorce cannot be justified remains prevalent in Georgia. Nonetheless, the share of those who report that divorce can be justified is growing, and the share of those who report it cannot be justified is declining. This is true for residents of different settlement types, both males and females, and across age groups, although the attitudes of older people and those living in rural settlements are changing less.

To have a closer look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, February 13, 2017

One in four in Georgia report taking antidepressants or antibiotics without a prescription

On a 2016 CRRC survey conducted for Transparency International Georgia (TIG), one in four adults in Georgia reported taking either antidepressants or antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription during the 12 months before the survey. Self-medication with anti-depressants can cause serious problems. While anti-depressants may have side-effects even when taken under the supervision of a physician, the risks are higher without a doctor’s care. Self-medication with antibiotics is also problematic. If taken improperly, they can contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is often thought to be one of the world’s most pressing health problems. Surely, when a quarter of the population reports taking these types of drugs without the supervision of a physician, it represents a public health concern, one of many in Georgia. Current regulations clearly fail to prevent such practices. This blog post looks at which groups in the population report more often taking antidepressants or antibiotics to self-medicate.

Women are significantly more likely to report taking antibiotics or antidepressants without a doctor’s prescription compared to men. While 21% of men reported self-medicating with these kinds of pharmaceuticals the year before the survey, 30% of women did so. A simple cross tabulation suggests the problem is largest in rural settlements. Men in different settlement types are equally likely to report taking these drugs without a prescription, while women in rural settlements are most likely to report doing so.

Note: Only the shares of those answering “Yes” are shown on the charts in this blog post. 

At first glance, the older population (56 and older) in general appears more likely to take anti-depressants and antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. Similar to the finding with settlement types, men of different ages are equally likely to do so, while women who are 36 years old or older report to be doing so most often.

With the use of antibiotics and antidepressants, a doctor’s supervision is particularly important. Many in Georgia still take such drugs without it, and the practice is more common among women than men. In order to begin to deal with this issue, the government of Georgia, and, in particular, the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, as well as civil society organizations should increase awareness of the problems associated with self-medication with anti-depressants and antibiotics, especially among women.

The data which this blog post reports on will soon be available at our Online Data Analysis tool, and is currently available for download here.