The number of composite indices that are constructed and used internationally is growing very fast; but whilst the complexity of quantitative techniques has increased dramatically, the education and training in this area has been dragging and lagging behind. As a consequence, these simple numbers, expected to synthesize quite complex issues, are often presented to the public and used in the political debate without proper emphasis on their intrinsic limitations and correct interpretations.
In this course on global statistics, offered by the University of Geneva jointly with the ETH Zürich KOF, you will learn the general approach of constructing composite indices and some of resulting problems. We will discuss the technical properties, the internal structure (like aggregation, weighting, stability of time series), the primary data used and the variable selection methods. These concepts will be illustrated using a sample of the most popular composite indices. We will try to address not only statistical questions but also focus on the distinction between policy-, media- and paradigm-driven indicators.

From the lesson

The steps of constructing a composite index

This module is organized along four lessons. The objective of this module is to familiarize you with the key steps to undertake when constructing a CI. The first lesson will develop a theoretical framework to support CIs’ construction. Notably, it will cover topics such as variables selection and data issues. The second lesson will introduce a unifying approach to construct CI by discussing aspects related to transformation functions and the elasticity of substitution. The entire third lesson will be devoted to an essential aspect in the construction of a CI: the choice of weights. Finally, the module will conclude by addressing questions arising after the construction of a CI. For instance, lesson four will discuss how to assess the robustness of the resulting CI. By the end of this module you will be familiar with all the most important technical (or say statistical) steps involved in constructing CIs.