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Last update: Jan 2012

Methodology and data sources

The number of children who have acquired their right to a legal identity is based on official registration figures, household surveys and population census. Civil registration systems that are functioning effectively compile vital statistics that can be used to compare the estimated total number of births in a country with the absolute number of registered births during a given period. Empirical evidence obtained through household surveys allows for estimating national levels of birth registration and for analyzing differentials in birth registration rates according to socio-economic, demographic and other proximate variables. Civil registration data, survey findings and country estimates (based on previous survey data and vital statistics) can be utilized to estimate the global situation of birth registration. However, the actual overall level of non-registration may be far greater than current estimates suggest due to the great number of births that occur each day in countries without effective vital registration systems.


Standard Module

MICS surveys have a standardized module for birth registration.

The analysis presented in these pages is mainly based on household survey data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS). To assess the levels of birth registration, all mothers and caretakers of children under five are asked to respond to questions regarding possession of a birth certificate, registration, reasons for non-registration (different country-specific categories listed), and knowledge of how to register a child's birth. While MICS surveys have an independent standardized module for birth registration, DHS surveys generally include a question on birth registration in the household questionnaire.


The main indicator in use for calculating levels of registration refers to the percentage of children less than five years of age (059 months) that were registered at the moment of the survey. The numerator of this indicator includes children whose birth certificate was seen by the interviewer or whose mother or caretaker says the birth has been registered.