Best Practice Recommendations for Measuring International Demographics

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Recommendations for Measuring International Demographics

a new ESOMAR series

The process of describing and defining populations is currently very varied. Methods differ from one research company to the next, measures go quickly out of data, and research respondents don’t always tell researchers the truth or give a proper answer to some demographic questions, resulting in misrepresentation and poor-quality data.

ESOMAR, through its Professional Standards Committee, is developing a series of recommendations on demographic standards to address inconsistencies that create barriers and inefficiencies in the exchange and evaluation of international data.

The series will cover international best practice recommendations for: 

  • Age validation 

  • Gender

  • Working status measurement 

  • Income measurement 

  • Education level measures by country and inclusive method of assessing education levels 

  • Job and industry definitions 

  • Global wealth range/measures 

  • Social class measurement

Who's working on it?

An expert project team from a range of international suppliers is working together to review best practices to describe demographic questions in as globally consistent a way as possible to develop best practice recommendations for key geographies worldwide. Growing international cross-market research levels will help researchers and clients everywhere to improve research standards. The team is chaired by Judith Passingham, chair of ESOMAR's Professional Standards Committee and Jon Puleston of Kantar, and a member of the Standards Committee.

The recommendations, founded on evidence-based best practices, are designed to improve quality standards and facilitate multi-country research projects and surveys. The proposals will help to produce more meaningful global/regional results that are more comparable from one project/region to another. All recommendations are sent to a Client Sounding Board for review and buy-in.   

Where are we now?

The team is currently finalising how to 'ask the age question' in a way comparable from project to project and is also best practice from a privacy point of view and more considerate of participants. The question should lead to more accurate information, less participant drop-out and less privacy exposure for suppliers and clients. 

For instance, the question about someone’s age can be asked in various ways. Some people might give the wrong answer (they forget how old they are or wish to appear younger), or they do not like being asked a question they have already been asked when signing up for a panel; or if they are older, they don't want to scroll down lots of years to come to their year of birth. Plus, many clients like to use different age bands, depending on the segment they are interested in. All this leads to inconsistencies and issues with the data. Next, we will tackle the gender and working status questions.

The Project Team

Recommendations have been prepared by a dedicated Project Team and are validated by the ESOMAR Professional Standards Committee and a Client Sounding Board.

The Co-Chairs

Judith Passingham
ESOMAR Committee Member, Chair of the Professional Standards Committee at ESOMAR
Jon Puleston
ESOMAR Corporate Member, Vice-President Innovation Profiles Division at Kantar

The Project Team Members

Dr. Otto Hellwig
Corporate Integration Director at Bilendi
Chris Stevens
Tre Rials
Director of Partner Programs at Cint
Katy Mallios
Vice President, Programmatic Supply at Cint
Sonali Kaushal
Senior Manager, Trust and Safety Ops at Cint
Jimmy Snyder
Director, Platform Ops Support at Cint
Nancy Brigham, Ph.D.
VP & Head of Research Science at Dynata
Pete Cape
ESOMAR Individual Member, Global Knowledge Director at Dynata
Bob Fawson
Executive Vice President, Business Operations, USA at Dynata
Sandy Casey
SVP of Global Supply at InnovateMR
Cecile Carre
VP, Global Respondent Quality & Research at Ipsos
Leah McTiernan
VP, Marketing and Communications at Ipsos
Sara Wilkinson
Director (Research on Research) at Ipsos
Eva Wittmann
Research on Research Director at Ipsos
Joan Garriga
Panel Manager Specialist at Netquest
Salvador Masdeu
Automated Business Director at Netquest
Marie Hense
VP of Online Data Quality at Toluna
Mathilde Lelievre
Chief Operations Officer, COO at Toluna
Susan Vidler
Global Chief Research Officer at Toluna
Kathy Joe
ESOMAR Staff, Research World Editorial Consultant at ESOMAR
Jules van Vlokhoven
Government Affairs & Professional Standards Intern at ESOMAR

The Client Sounding Board 

We are sending all our recommendations to a Sounding Board for comment and possible implementation to ensure they fit their requirements. With the Board’s help, we can fine-tune the proposals and speed up adoption. 

  • Kevin Cowan, Insight Manager, BBC 

  • Begonia Fiafan, Insights Lead, Coca-Cola Latam 

  • Nicola Dean, Shopper Insights Lead and Aileen Cabelly, Senior Sensory Scientist, Colgate Palmolive 

  • Rachael Popoola, Consumer Planning (Insights) Manager for Africa Innovation, Diageo 

  • Muhamad Masood Ali Khan, Etisalat 

  • Mario Callegaro, Senior Staff User Experience Survey Research Scientist, Google 

  • Barry Jennings, Director, Cloud and Commercial Business Planning Insights, Microsoft 

  • Amy Lee, Big Data Insights & Analytics Lead, Greater China, Mondalez China 

  • Naoki Takahashi, Senior Advisor, Nissan Global Headquarters

  • Vinay Ahuja, VP, Europe Analytics and Insights, P&G 

  • Manish Makhijani, Global CMI PDC Director, Unilever and VP MRS of India 

If you work in a client company and would like to participate in this Sounding Board, please contact