Monday, August 31, 2015

Home appliances in the South Caucasus: Purchasing trends, 2000-2013

A fair share of the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian population still lives in poverty and cannot afford to buy certain durable goods. According to CRRC’s 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey (CB), in Georgia, 28% of the population reported they did not have enough money for food; 33% had enough money for food, but not for clothes, and for 31% there was enough money for food and clothes, but not for durables. Only 7% of the population reported they could afford to buy durables, and a further 2% said they had enough money to buy anything they needed. The situation is similar in Armenia, but slightly different in Azerbaijan where less people report not having enough money for food (22%).

Using data from CB 2013, this blog post looks at ownership of washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioners in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and, if the respective item was purchased in 2000 or later, when it was purchased.

Of the three durables we discuss in this blog post, refrigerators are the most widely owned (by 94% of households in Azerbaijan, 79% in Armenia and 78% in Georgia). Approximately half of the households have at least one automatic washing machine in Azerbaijan and Georgia, while the respective share is a bit higher in Armenia. Only a small share of households in Armenia and Georgia has at least one air conditioner, while the respective share is reported to be much higher in Azerbaijan (29%). Unsurprisingly, in all countries, the ownership of these appliances is higher in the capitals compared to other settlements.

Analysis of the time of purchase of these household appliances in Georgia shows growth in purchases from 2000 until 2008, followed by a decline that may be connected to the 2008 world economic crisis. In 2010, the purchases increased and then dropped again in 2011. In 2012, air conditioner purchases increased, while washing machine purchases dropped and refrigerator purchases remained stable. Less air conditioners and automatic washing machines were purchased in 2013.

Importantly, as shown in the chart below, the changes in the shares of the households purchasing these appliances coincided to a certain extent with the dynamics of GDP per capita, with the exception of 2013, when GDP per capita increased slightly compared with the previous year, while purchases of washing machines and air conditioners dropped.

Note: In 2001 and 2002, approximately the same shares of households purchased refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners in Georgia.

In Armenia, the purchasing patterns of these appliances follow a trend similar to Georgia, with one exception: purchases of air conditioners increased in 2013.

Azerbaijan was also affected by the world economic crisis. However, GDP per capita continued to increase after 2009, while purchases of household appliances decreased. A possible explanation here might be that the GDP growth in Azerbaijan is connected to natural gas and oil sales. Hence it most likely reaches economic elites and less so the general population and its purchasing power.

To sum up, there are still many households in the region who do not own certain household appliances e.g., automatic washing machines and air conditioners. Residents of the capitals are better equipped with these appliances than people living outside the capitals.

To explore this topic more, have a look at the Caucasus Barometer data, here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Internet and social media usage in Georgia

In April-May 2015, CRRC-Georgia carried out a representative survey of the adult population of Georgia for Transparency International Georgia. The survey contained a number of questions on Internet and social media usage, and the results show us who is online, what people are doing online, who is using social networks, and which networks people use most.

The young, educated, Tbilisi residents, and employed report using the Internet more frequently than other Georgians. Most of Georgia’s elderly (56+) never use the Internet - only 19%, 7% and 5% of them in the capital, other urban and rural settlements (respectively) report using the Internet on a daily basis. The most vociferous Internet users are by far 18 to 35 year olds with a full 81% of them in the capital, 61% in other urban settlements and 39% in rural settlements reporting using the Internet every day. Only 1% of Georgians have never heard of the Internet, lower than in previous surveys which showed that as much as 6% of Georgians had not heard of the Internet. Notably, 46% of the population reported never using the Internet.

Those who report using the Internet at least once a month – we refer to them as regular Internet users (43% of the adult population) – were asked a number of questions about what they do online. As results show, when online, most are using social networks. In a distant second, regular Internet users report searching for information or news through means other than social media. Less, but roughly equal shares of them reported their most often online activity as either emailing or downloading /listening to/watching movies, music or videos.

Note: Only those who use the Internet at least once a month were asked this question. Each respondent could select up to three answer options.

Roughly nine out of ten regular Internet users in Georgia use either Facebook, Twitter, Odnoklassniki or VKontakte – or some combination of these social networks – at least once per week. This means that approximately four in ten Georgian adults regularly use a social network. As far as specific social networks go, Facebook is by far the most popular in Georgia –79% of regular Internet users are on Facebook at least once a week. The next most popular social networking site is the Russian Odnoklassniki; rather small shares of Georgians use VKontakte and/or Twitter on a regular basis.

The data shows three major patterns of social network choice by regular Internet users in Georgia – Russian networks only, American networks only, and a mix of both. The Russian only users are the smallest share of users (9% of regular Internet users) followed by American only network users (36%). A plurality (43%) of regular Internet users are on a Russian and American social network at least once per week.

The American only users are heavily concentrated in Tbilisi (68%) compared with the mixed and Russian network only users who are more evenly distributed throughout the country. The American only users are also more affluent being both more highly educated and having higher household incomes.

What trends have you noticed on social media use in Georgia? Join the conversation here on our Facebook page.

Monday, August 17, 2015

An interesting implication of the 2014 census: Georgia is likely an upper middle income country

While Georgia has yet to be officially declared an upper middle income country by the World Bank, as a result of the 2014 census, it’s likely to be labeled one after the final census results are published in April of 2016. Interestingly, Georgia likely became one in 2013. Why is this the case and what are the implications? Let’s take a look using the 2014 preliminary census data and a population model developed by Ilia State University’s Giorgi Tsuladze published in a 2014 United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) report.

The 2002 census was way off

In 2002, the Georgian government carried out a population census and found that there were 4.37 million Georgians. This number though was and is widely considered to be suspect. According to the 2014 UNPF report (and notably, Geostat employees at the time), the main problem with the 2002 census was its method of counting the migrant population. Specifically, the 2002 population count included 114,000 migrants who may have been permanently settled abroad rather than temporarily. This number may have been even higher considering that an estimated one million Georgians left the country between 1990 and 2002. Their family members who were interviewed for the census may have been reluctant to report that their relatives had gone abroad and instead reported them as temporary migrants or still in the country for a variety of reasons.

Not only was the census off, but so too were the civil registries which count birth and death registration. Between censuses, governments update population counts based on birth and death registrations, but because many births in Georgia happened and to a certain extent still happen outside of hospitals, births are not always registered. Also important are the lack of death registrations.

Recognizing these problems, Giorgi Tsuladze, a Professor at Ilia State University, made a downward adjustment of the population figure from the 2002 census, an upward adjustment to the birth rate, and a decrease in the estimate of the average life expectancy to estimate the population. In turn, his estimates of the population are quite close to what the preliminary 2014 census results tell us about the Georgian population – there are about 3.7 million people in Georgia (excluding South Ossetia and Abkhazia).

Geostat population estimate (thou.) Tsuladze population estimate (thou.)
2002 4,372 4,001
2003 4,343 3,966
2004 4,315 3,931
2005 4,322 3,899
2006 4,401 3,869
2007 4,395 3,839
2008 4,382 3,814
2009 4.385 3,797
2010 4,436 3,790
2011 4.469 3,786
2012 4,498 3,777
2013 4,484 3,768

Source: Tsuladze, G.; N. Maglaperidze and A. Vadachkoria. 2002. Demographic Overview of Georgia. Tbilisi, UNFPA. Cited in
Hakkert, Ralph, Gulnara Kadyrkulova, Nata Avaliani, Eduard Jongstra, Lasha Labadze, Maka Chitanava, and Nino Doghonadze. Population Situation Analysis (PSA) 2014. Rep. Tbilisi: United Nations Population Fund, 2015. Print.

Income classifications

The second important part of this story is understanding how countries are classified into income groups. The World Bank classifies countries by Gross National Income per capita (slightly different than Gross Domestic Product per capita – see here for exact definitions).

Countries with a per capita GNI of less than $1,045 are considered low income countries. Countries with greater than $1045, but less than $4,125 GNI/capita are classified as lower-middle income countries. Countries below $12,736 but above $4,125 GNI/capita are considered upper middle income countries, and countries above the $12,736 mark are considered to be upper income countries.

Since, a country’s income classification is based on the size of its population, and as we saw above, Georgia’s official population size was inflated by a fairly sizable margin for the past twelve years, Georgia’s GNI per capita (as well as GDP per capita) was underestimated.

Georgia probably moved from the lower-middle income to the upper-middle income grouping in 2013 when GNI per capita moved from from $3914 in 2012 to $4240 in 2013 (based on Tsuladze’s population estimates). In 2014, using the preliminary census data, Georgia’s GNI was $4489/capita. Hence Georgia has very likely moved income groups, barring a major miscount of the preliminary census data of roughly 330,000 people.

Why does this matter?

Well, it is good and bad news for Georgia.

To start with the bad, aid is sometimes distributed based on a country’s economic status. There are many other important factors at play (see here for a discussion of the subject), but nonetheless it is often considered in aid decisions. Hence, Georgia may expect lower levels of aid in the coming years as its per capita economic statistics are adjusted upward following the finalization of the 2014 census in 2016.

When it comes to the good news for the country, Georgians are doing better than the numbers suggested. This does not change the facts on the ground and widespread poverty experienced in Georgia, but in the long run it can lead to a number of benefits. For instance, foreign private capital flows may increase as the country may be perceived as a more enticing investment environment, having moved to a higher income category.

The upward adjustment will also be important for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration prospects. One of the key factors which the EU has identified as a barrier to prospective membership for countries in its neighborhood is low income levels, and as Georgia’s income level gradually increases, it will make Georgia a more attractive partner country. Notably, the lower population also means that per capita income is increasing at a higher rate than previously thought. In the short term, it may also help ease fears over migrant flight from Georgia (which is likely an inhibiting factor at present for Georgia in the EU visa liberalization process). It is important to note that if income inequality persists in Georgia, economic growth is unlikely to deter migrants from attempting to make their way to the EU, though a fuller treatment of this subject is beyond the scope of this post.

On the grand scheme of things, the adjustment is good as well. While not necessarily good for Georgia, countries in more dire straits may receive more aid that would have been aimed at Georgia. Better decisions about what kind of aid the country receives may also result from the more accurate data and income categorization.

Although we should not expect to see the official income categorization change to upper-middle until after Geostat has published the final census numbers and adjusted its population estimates for 2002-2014, it should occur in the next few years.

To take a look through the preliminary 2014 census results, take a look here, and for the estimates of the population size which this blog is based on as well as other interesting data and analysis on Georgia’s demographic situation, take a look at the UNPF/ISET report, here. Notably, Georgia is not the first and surely not the last country to have a major economic indicator readjustment based on something besides economic growth. Ghana and Nigeria both have had large changes to their economic indicators in recent years caused by how GDP was calculated rather than growth with interesting implications. Listen to this Planet Money story to find out more.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

What do CB interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence tell us?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) surveys regularly collect information about how the interviewers assess each of the conducted interviews – so called paradata that provides additional insight into the conditions surrounding the interviews (e.g., whether someone besides the respondent and the interviewer was present during the face-to-face interview), as well as interviewers’ subjective assessments of, for example, level of sincerity of the respondents. This type of knowledge is especially important not only because the populations of the South Caucasus countries often distrust polling and pollsters (Hayes et al., 2006), but also because the conditions during the face-to-face interviews are rarely perfect in the region. The latter usually stems from objective reasons, like, for example, crowded dwellings (especially in the winter, when families normally heat only a few rooms, where all household members tend to gather). This blog post looks at the information provided by CB 2013 Interviewer Assessment Forms in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, trying to determine whether there is a bias in interviewers’ assessments. Specifically, we will have a look at interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence.

Overall, CB interviewers tend to rate the majority of respondents as average to (moderately) intelligent, but rarely as “very intelligent”. Interestingly, Georgian interviewers’ ratings are more skewed towards the positive edge of the scale, compared to those in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Note: The data was not weighted for the analysis performed for this blog post. 

These figures, of course, in no way provide objective assessments of the intelligence of the respondents – neither was it the aim of this exercise. We will now look at how these assessments correlate with respondents’ answers on their basic socio-economic characteristics, including gender, age and level of education.

In all countries, there is a strong positive correlation between interviewers’ assessment of intelligence of the respondents and the two variables measuring respondents’ level of education - highest level of education achieved by the respondent, and the years s/he spent in formal education. The strength of correlation is somewhat stronger in Azerbaijan (.549 for the first variable) and somewhat weaker in Georgia (.455) and Armenia (.468).

Azerbaijan is the only country where, according to CB 2013, there is a relatively weak, but significant correlation between interviewers’ assessment of respondents’ intelligence and the respondents’ gender (-.192), suggesting that there is a systematic tendency to rate male respondents’ intelligence higher than that of females’. This finding is all the more interesting since a bit over half of CB2013 interviewers in Azerbaijan were female (22 male interviewers, 24 female interviewers). In all countries, there is a tendency to rate the intelligence of those living in the capital cities higher than those living in other settlements – the respective correlation coefficients are not high (-.094 in Azerbaijan, -.119 in Georgia and -.155 in Armenia), but are significant. There is, however, no correlation between these assessments and respondents’ age.

Interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence do not seem to be straightforwardly related to the attitudes towards democracy, or reported trust towards major social and political institutions, although respective findings differ by countries. It’s only in Georgia that we can see weak, but negative correlation between trust towards the president of the country and assessment of respondent’s intelligence by interviewer (-.141), while the correlations between these variables are not significant in Armenia and Azerbaijan.  

What other variables might, in your opinion, affect an interviewer’s assessment of a respondent’s intelligence?

You can have a look at CB’s Interviewer Assessment Form at the end of each CB questionnaire, e.g., here; and, of course, you can learn all about CB data on CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Citizenship in action in the South Caucasus

Citizenship is a difficult concept to define as its definition changes over time, depending on social, legal, and political contexts. Importantly, it not only encompasses structural (legal and institutional) aspects, but also the everyday practices through which people relate to the state and other citizens. This blog post examines some of the perceptions as to what makes a good citizen across the South Caucasus and the extent to which people’s actions match up with their stated opinions on good citizenship.

CRRC’s 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey asked people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to rate the importance for good citizens to take various actions, such as voting, obeying laws, following traditions and volunteering, on a scale from 1, not at all important, to 10, extremely important.

There are similarities between what people prioritize in all three countries. In Armenia, the three actions people considered to be most important (i.e. those with the highest mean score) were voting in elections, following traditions and helping those who are worse off, while Azerbaijanis prioritized always obeying laws, following traditions and voting. For Georgians, the top two actions were following traditions and voting, immediately followed by supporting people who are worse off and always obeying laws. It is important to note that people in these countries usually tend towards positive ratings when offered these types of scales during surveys, hence very high average scores observed in the chart below are not very surprising – while relatively low mean scores (e.g. in the cases of doing volunteer work and being critical towards the government) strongly indicate that public opinion considers these qualities unimportant or even irrelevant.

Note: Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis through this blog post.

The Caucasus Barometer also asked respondents about their activities over the last six months, some of which correspond to the actions that were rated as highly important for being good citizens, including voting, volunteering and helping those who are worse off. Let’s see how much the population of each of the countries reports engagement in these activities.

With voting, strong support – in terms of considering it very important for being a good citizen – in all three countries is backed up by a high proportion of people who report casting a vote in the last national elections. However, it should be kept in mind that participation in elections is traditionally overestimated in survey results, most probably due to social desirability bias, and in this case the same bias is likely to have influenced answers to the question on the importance of voting.

For actions that involve greater participation and commitment, such as volunteering, the story is more complicated. Georgia, where the highest proportion of people said it was extremely important for good citizens to volunteer, in fact had the lowest proportion of people who had volunteered in the past six months: 19% compared to 31% in Armenia and 23% in Azerbaijan. However, those who rated volunteering as being important for being a good citizen were slightly more likely to have volunteered. A similar trend is observed in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Note: Only the answers of those who reported to have volunteered in the last six months are shown. A 10-point scale was used to record respondents’ answers to the question, “How important or unimportant is it for a good citizen to do volunteer work meeting the needs of the community without expecting any compensation?” Code 1 corresponded to the answer “Not important at all,” and code 10 corresponded to the answer “Extremely important.” For the analysis, this scale was re-coded into a 2-point one, with original codes 1 to 7 corresponding to “less important or unimportant,” and codes 8, 9 and 10 – “important”.

As for the final activity, helping people who are worse off, there was no exact match among the questions asking about activities over the last six months. However, answers to the question whether people had contributed to charity, including giving money to beggars, can provide a rough approximation to whether they have helped someone who is worse off. It may be because of not having an exact matching question that this was one activity that showed a big difference between what was reported as important but practiced only by fewer than half of the population in each country who reported having contributed to charity, with Armenia having the highest proportion of people who did so.

The findings discussed in this blog post suggest that there are certain discrepancies between the actions that people say are important for being good citizens and whether they themselves engage in those activities. This is especially so for those activities that require a larger commitment, such as volunteering.

You can find full data from the Caucasus Barometer surveys on our Online Data Analysis tool.