Statisticians entering data into the database for further processing and analysis. Turkmenistan. © World Bank
© World Bank

Quantitative tools and approaches

Many of the questions in the qualitative and mixed methods tools section can be integrated within quantitative approaches. This page focuses on using secondary quantitative datasets and on survey tools for exploring social and gender norms. 

Tools by topic

In recent years, there have been growing efforts to develop more focused tools for generating quantitative data specifically measuring norms, through questions about what respondents think is typical or accepted behaviour in their communities. The table below outlines surveys and modules exploring gender norms by topic.

Thematic tools and surveys for exploring gender norms

Topic/theme Tools
Gender norms – multiple topics     GAGE adult survey modules (Jordan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia)
Gender roles

International Men and Gender Equality Surveys (IMAGES)

EMERGE gender questions: Social norms and gender roles

Idealised masculinity and femininity

Global Early Adolescence Study questionnaire and qualitative tools

International Men and Gender Equality Surveys (IMAGES) 

Gender Equitable Men Scale

Care and domestic work Oxfam Household Care surveys
Economic empowerment

World Values Survey 

EMERGE gender questions: Social norms on women’s employment and leadership

Investing in Women Social Norms, Attitudes and Practices Survey

Sexual and reproductive health

EMERGE gender questions: social norms on sexual and reproductive health

Urban Reproductive Health Initiative MEL tools

Gender-based violence

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

Social Norms and Beliefs about GBV Scale

EMERGE gender questions: Social norms and violence against women and children

Partner Violence Norms Scale (see also this webinar)

Dating Global Early Adolescence Study questionnaire and qualitative tools
Child marriage

CARE Tipping Point Resources (qualitative and quantitative)

UNICEF Child marriage standardised survey


ACT Framework and tools

UNICEF Measuring Social and Behavioural Drivers of Child Protection Issues Guidance Tool

Voice, agency and political leadership Afrobarometer,  Arab Barometer surveys

Three resources that bring together tools and methods for quantitative measurement of gender and social norms include:

Measuring diffusion of norms and norm change

Another area of recent innovation is in the spread of new norms. This often involves analysis of social networks. LINEA’s webinar recording explains how to research social networks to understand reference groups and their influence on social norms, and a webinar by the Learning Collaborative also discusses some participatory techniques for understanding reference groups. Some recent studies that showcase the tools and approaches they have used include:

Using secondary data

Large-scale international surveys, such as Demographic and Health Surveys, Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys and the World Values Survey that have been carried out for the last twenty years or longer now have substantial datasets with data on attitudes and behaviour or practices. These can serve as proxies for norms. Samman’s (2018) Guide to quantitative measurement of gendered social norms, and Pereznieto’s (2015) What can internationally comparable quantitative data tell us about how gender norms are changing? outline some of the measures used in these and other surveys and their potential and limitations as measures of norms. Some recent studies that have used World Values Survey data to illuminate changes in gender norms include:

Regional Barometer Surveys (e.g. Afrobarometer, Latinobarometro) are also increasingly including questions that measure norms too. 

Indices of norm change 

The growing interest in quantitative measurement of social and gender norms has led to increased investment in indices that either focus entirely on changing norms, or include measures of norms as a dimension that contributes to an overall index. Samman’s (2018) guide to the quantitative measurement of gender norms, and this short ODI guide to gender indices provide an overview of issues related to using indices to understand changing gender norms. In brief, indices such as those listed below can provide a top-level indication of whether norms are changing. They typically rely on secondary data from publicly available quantitative survey data on attitudes. Others, such as the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) also include complementary measures of informal and formal laws, and practices. The table below lists some key indices that draw on attitudinal data as a proxy for norms. It does not include indices that draw only on outcome data.

Some indices that draw on attitudinal data to give an indication of norm change

Index     Developer     Data sources

Gender and Social Norms Index (GSNI) (see also this ALIGN blog)
UNDP     World Values Survey
Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) (see also this ALIGN note) OECD     World Values Survey, Barometer Surveys, specialised surveys e.g. ILO-Gallup attitudes to women and work survey

Index of Child Marriage Acceptability - Asia
Plan International Primary data collected by PLAN international

Big data

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using social media to monitor changing norms. This is still a new field, but some emerging studies provide insights and guidance. Measure Evaluation’s (2018) study analyses representation of gender-based violence and ‘sugar daddy’ relationships on Twitter accounts from ten southern and eastern African countries and discusses in detail the approaches used. A study in 2018, supported by Data 2x, examines insights on norms around gender-based violence using Twitter and YouTube content in Arabic. Breakthrough Research’s (2020) brief explains social listening: an approach to interpreting social media data, in this case to understand changing norms, attitudes and behaviour around sexual and reproductive health.