Digital civil registration and legal identity systems: A joined-up approach to leave no one behind: Chapter 2
Birth registration coverage for poor and disadvantaged peopleDownloads
There are significant gaps between the progress of those who are most likely to be left behind and everyone else. However, these gaps are often masked by a reliance on global averages. This chapter provides an analysis of disaggregated current and historic survey data, which shows that progress on birth registration coverage for the poorest, least educated and those living in fragile and conflict affected areas has not kept pace with the rest of the population. This has resulted in increasing inequalities, vulnerable populations being left behind and a risk that these populations will be permanently left behind in the future.
This report analyses birth registration related data from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Demographic and Health Surveys and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys. This data has been integrated with data from the World Bank’s PovcalNet in order to make the observations outlined in Chapter 2 (for a more detailed explanation, see Appendix 2). While this study goes to question the accuracy and usefulness of survey data to monitor CRVS progress (see Chapter 3), the data is the best currently available and does allow for a number of meaningful conclusions to be drawn.
There are persistent gaps in birth registration coverage between those in poverty and the rest of the population. In the years 2000–2015, birth registration coverage for children aged under five living in the poorest 20% of households increased from 29% to 49%. In contrast, registration coverage for children in the rest of the population increased from 58% to 80% (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Proportion of births registered among children (aged under five), 2000–2015
Between 2007 and 2011, the gap between the poorest 20% of households and the rest of the population fell. However, since 2011 the gap has begun to increase again and if trends continue children living in the poorest households will continue to be left behind (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: The gap between the proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) in the poorest 20% and in the rest of the population, 2007–2015
Increasing gaps in birth registration coverage for children are also evident when considering the mother’s level of education. Since 2000, birth registration coverage has improved the most for children with mothers who have a primary level of education, closing the gap between those with higher levels of education. Figure 4 shows that children born to mothers with little or no schooling are being left behind. Almost half of these children remained unregistered during the period surveyed.
Figure 4: Proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) by education level of mother, 2000–2018
Similar patterns are seen when the education level of fathers is considered. However, research by Data2x has shown that a child’s registration is more likely to be determined by their mother’s level of education than by that of their father.
Previous research by DI and the Overseas Development Institute found that subnational financing is not well targeted towards the poorest regions, in addition there is little evidence of a progressive allocation of education resources by governments to the regions with the worst education outcomes and no consistent trend among donors.
The poorest people often face multiple and intersecting deprivations, for example poor nutrition and low levels of education are mutually reinforcing and pass poverty from one generation to the next. For birth registration, inequalities are more extreme when low education and poverty levels intersect. The impact of increasing the education level of the mother is lessened for those living in the poorest 20% of households. Figure 5 shows that the rate of registration for the children of uneducated mothers falls a further 10% (compared to Figure 4) if they are also in one of the poorest 20% of households.
Figure 5: Proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) by poverty and education level of mother, 2015
Women and girls may be especially impacted, as previous research has shown that birth registration is negatively correlated with early marriage, young age at birth of the first child and wider adverse health outcomes.
Geographical location can also have an impact on those already left behind by lack of birth registration, poverty and low education levels. Figure 6 illustrates that the poorest people, living in rural areas with lower levels of education face the greatest challenge and are the populations that development programme and domestic services find arguably the hardest to reach.
Figure 6: Proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) by poverty in rural versus urban locations, 2000–2015
Furthermore, detailed country-level data shows that populations with the lowest levels of birth registration are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, often in fragile and conflict affected contexts, where extreme poverty persists (see Figure 7). Over 80% of the poorest children aged under five have no birth registration in Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Zambia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Nigeria.
Figure 7: Proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) for the poorest 20% of populations across the globe, 2015
Some countries have made improvements in birth registration coverage for the poorest, however significant conflict and civil unrest has resulted in the proportion of registered births falling below 50% in several central African countries, most notably the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Zimbabwe (see Figure 8). There have also been reported decreases in coverage for the poorest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (from 34% in 2000 to 24% in 2015) and even more starkly in Guinea–Bissau where the impact of conflict, corruption and ongoing instability as seen the birth registration rates for the poorest children drop from 41% in 2000 to only 2% in 2015.
There is a growing recognition that – with a third of people in extreme poverty worldwide living in countries with recurrent crisis – there is a need to build greater coherence across development, humanitarian and peace sectors. Recent analysis from DI looked specifically at how two donors (Sweden and the UK) were delivering on this. While there are challenges to integrating approaches there are also clear benefits of joint planning; for example, harmonising approaches between humanitarian, development and peace actors could form the basis of plans to deliver sustainable foundational data systems, such as civil registration, in protracted crisis contexts.
Figure 8: Change in the proportion of births registered among children (aged under five) in the poorest 20% of populations across the globe between 2000–2015* (%)
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The Demographic and Health Surveys Program, https://dhsprogram.com/ (accessed 16 March 2020)Return to source text
UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, https://mics.unicef.org/ (accessed 16 March 2020)Return to source text
World Bank, PovcalNet, http://iresearch.worldbank.org/PovcalNet/povOnDemand.aspx (access 16 March 2020)Return to source text
The increase in birth registration coverage in India was the main reason for the gap closing.Return to source text
Data2x, 2018. CRVS and gender. Available at: https://data2x.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CRVSandGenderBrief.pdfReturn to source text
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