What is the WORLD Policy Analysis Center?

World map showing until what age girls are protected from marriageWORLD is a unique initiative aimed at improving the quantity and quality of comparative data available to policymakers, citizens, civil society, and researchers around the world on policies affecting human health, development, wellbeing, and equity.  Until now, there has been remarkably little globally comparative data available regarding legal rights and public policy. This absence of truly global information has made it difficult for policymakers, citizens, non-profit organizations, and companies to establish where their country stands in terms of crucial social policies, determine whether it is meeting commonly accepted global standards and international agreements, and hold governments accountable for the commitments they have made. Additionally, there has been no systematic way to evaluate the effectiveness of policies on a national level or learn from the range of approaches that different nations have taken to the common issues they face.

The WORLD Policy Analysis Center was housed at the IHSP between 2005 and 2012. Funded in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Government of Quebec, and under the direction of Jody Heymann, the project built on the international database started by Heymann through Harvard’s Project on Global Working Families.  WORLD currently resides at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.  In collaboration with WORLD, policy data are being expanded by IHSP staff working on the Maternal and Child Health Equity Initiative so policy effects can be rigorously examined longitudinally and sub-nationally.

Staff and students at the IHSP worked to elaborate components on discrimination, equity, health, disability, family, education, adult labor, child labor, child marriage, and income policies and social, economic, civil, and political rights.


Constitutions Database

The Constitutions Database analyses anti-discrimination and equity protections in the national constitutions of 191 UN member states. A framework of 55 civil, political, social, and economic rights was developed to compare the protections guaranteed by countries in a number of life contexts. For each of these rights, the project assesses the quality of the constitutional provisions guaranteeing equity across 26 characteristics, including gender, ethnicity, religion, age, language, citizenship, and sexual orientation.  The database separately analyses guarantees of equality and special provisions to promote equality for the physically disabled, those with mental health conditions or intellectually disabled, and general disability.  These guarantees of equality encompass work, education, and more general prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of disability. 

Poverty Database

The Poverty Database focuses on mechanisms aimed at lifting individuals and families out of poverty. The database contains three separate modules focused on people with disabilities.  These include cash benefits paid to people with disabilities who are unable to work or have reduced working capacities, special cash benefits for individuals injured at work, and cash benefits paid to families with disabled children.  For the working poor in general, it gathers data on minimum wages and on policies targeting low-income families. For the non-working poor, it examines unemployment policies and insurance programs. In addition, it examines policies targeting the elderly. This comprehensive database will provide researchers and policymakers with a powerful tool to compare and analyse poverty reduction policies and outcomes around the world.

Education Database

The Education Database provides information on the level of inclusion for special needs children within the educational system.  It also gathers information on barriers to entry for all students and the quality of provided education as measured through teacher training requirements.  It provides a comprehensive source of data on educational policy, practice and progress around the globe.

The Adult Labour Database

The Adult Labour Database compares the labour and social policies of 190 UN member nations. These policies include: leave and flexibility to address personal or family health needs; leave for the birth or adoption of a child; and workplace policies such as breastfeeding breaks, overtime policy, and annual leave.  Data from the Adult Labour Database is available at

Child Labour Database

The Child Database Initiative includes information on minimum age requirements for different types of work, protections against hazardous work, and work hour protections for children.

Child Marriage Database

The Child Marriage Database captures minimum age protections to prevent child marriage around the globe.  These protections include the general minimum age for marriage, but also exceptions that might be granted for the minimum age if children have parental permission, ministerial permission, or in the event of pregnancy.




One of the major publications to come out of the WORLD initiative is Children's Chances: How Countries Can Move from Surviving to Thriving

Children's Chances book coverWhat is known globally about the laws and policies that shape children’s lives? Until the development of the WORLD Policy Analysis Centre, whose data informs this book, there was next to no readily comparable and accessible information on what laws, policies, and programs countries have in place to address key areas of children’s healthy development. In the absence of this information, our ability to support national progress has been limited.


In Children’s Chances, Jody Heymann and Kristen McNeill tell the story of what works and what countries around the world are doing to ensure equal opportunities for all children. Covering poverty, discrimination, education, health, child labor, child marriage, and parental care, Children’s Chances identifies the leaders and the laggards, highlights successes and setbacks, and provides a guide for what needs to be done to make equal chances for all children a reality.

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