Blog survey findings 2: demographics and professional status

(This is the second post in a series reporting topline results from the recent aid/development blog reader survey. Please go here for full results and other commentary.)

Half of the survey addressed demographic and professional status questions: age, country of origin, gender, degrees earned, type of employment, etc. This post discusses those findings.

Country of origin (Q8) and country of residence (Q9)

The survey asked separate questions about where respondents are from, and where they currently reside. We figured many blog readers are expats from developed countries working in developing countries.

Country of origin: The data confirms the perception that blog readers are primarily from more developed countries: fully 50% of respondents are from the United States alone, 11% are from the UK, 8% are from Canada, and 4% are from Australia. Things drop off considerably from there, with no other country breaking 3%. The top ten are rounded out by Germany, India, France, Netherlands, Ireland, and Spain.

A total of 89 countries of origin are represented among the readership. These included a handful of emerging and less developed countries. To put one frame on it: OECD countries constitute 89% of the blog readership; India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa together account for another 5%. The remaining 6% of readers are spread out across the rest of the non-OECD countries. Again, this is data on where the respondent is from, not where s/he currently resides.

Country of residence: These responses were somewhat more spread out. The readership currently resides in 127 countries. 38% of readers live in a country other than their country of origin. The chart below lists the top 15 countries of residence, presenting data on both countries of origin and

You’ll notice that both Kenya and Uganda make the top 10 for residence despite having minimal shares for origin; Ghana and South Africa likewise break into the top 15. So if your blog is getting hits from developing countries, there’s a pretty good chance the readers are expats. Perhaps it is also telling that most of the countries represented in the top tiers are English-speaking.

Age (Q10)

Respondents ranged from 15 to 72 years old. However, a third of respondents fell between 25 and 29, and nearly three quarters fell between 20 and 34. See below for the distribution.

age brackets

This could be a confirmation that younger people have more time at work (unlike busy executives) so they’re more inclined to take surveys. Of course, young people are more likely to read blogs in the first place, and to be plugged into social networks like Twitter and Facebook. A final factor here may be a “youth bulge” — not in the developing world, but in the aid/development industry. It would be interesting to compare these stats to the age distribution of, say, the international NGO workforce.

Sex of respondents (Q11)

Respondents were pretty close to balanced: 51% female, 47% male, 2% no response. Don’t know what to say about this one, except that it perhaps emphasizes how women and men are equally internet savvy in this industry.

Education level completed (Q12)

Blog readers are well educated. When asked about the highest level of education completed, the responses were:

  • PhD, MD, or other doctorate: 12% of respondents
  • Masters degree, law school, or similar program: 52% of respondents
  • Undergraduate: 32% of respondents
  • Secondary school: 4% of respondents

Professional categories (Q13)

The survey asked respondents to “check all that apply” on a list of professional categories. We all wear many hats – many students are also interns, many employees are also consultants, and so on. The category that showed up most was “Mid-level employee” (chosen by 32% of respondents), followed by “Entry-level employee” (16%). Students were also well-represented: 12% of respondents are currently PhD/MD/doctoral students, 12% are Masters/JD/similar students, and 6% are undergraduate or high school students. See table for full results.

Category Number of responses % of respondents
Student – Undergraduate or lower 109 6%
Student – Masters, JD, or similar 215 12%
Student – Phd, MD, or other doctorate 218 12%
Professor 134 8%
Intern 104 6%
Volunteer 175 10%
Entry-level employee 273 16%
Mid-level employee 567 32%
Executive-level employee 106 6%
Independent consultant 174 10%
Board member 61 3%
Individual donor 101 6%
Corporate donor 7 0%
Social entrepreneur 67 4%
Other entrepreneur 30 2%
Other 96 5%

(Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% because respondents could choose more than one.)

There were various write-in entries for “other”. Just glancing over them, they included: journalist, freelance writer, lay missionary, university lecturer, retired, f*ing retired, K-12 teacher, human, activist, diplomat, and Batman. That’s right, Batman took our survey.

Type of employer (Q14)

The next survey question asked about the types of organizations where respondents work. Specifically, it asked about their place of primary employment, interning, or volunteering.

A quarter of respondents chose “International NGO”, while nearly a fifth chose “University or research organization” and almost as many indicated that they are not currently working, interning or volunteering. Other options had far fewer responses. See chart.

type of employer

(Note: The data labeled “Not working” above includes both those respondents who chose “Not currently working, interning or volunteering” and the blank responses, because the question was optional and began with “If you are working…”.)

The entries for “other” included: attorney, consulting firm, media, law firm, self-employed, and sub-national government.

Type of work (Q15)

The survey followed the question on type of employer with a question on type of work. Given how many respondents work at international NGOs and universities/research organizations, it comes as no surprise that the major types of work are “Research” (22%) and “Project/program Management” (19%).

type of work

While the “other” responses for previous questions have been scattered, this question yielded clusters of write-ins. Each of the following showed up frequently: advocacy, education, teaching, training, knowledge management, law. Future versions of the survey should include these as options. Notably, many write-ins said they fulfill many functions in their job. As one respondent put it: “Choose ONE? Working for an NGO?!” Duly noted.

Aid or development work: past, present, future? (Q16)

The final question on professional status tried to distinguish people who identify with working in international aid versus development, and also whether individuals currently work, previously worked, or plan to work in these sectors. Respondents were asked to select each of these statements that applied to them.

Statement # of responses % of respondents
I currently work in international aid. 256 15%
I currently work in international development. 794 45%
I previously worked in aid or development, but currently do not. 302 17%
I don’t currently work in aid or development, but it’s likely that I will in the future. 392 22%
I have never worked in aid or development, and I probably never will. 212 12%

(Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% because respondents could choose more than one.)

For those who currently work in either aid or development, clearly there are more blog readers on the development side. However, because respondents could choose more than one, there was overlap: 164 respondents (9%) indicated that they work in both international aid and development. This points to the blurred line between the two fields. While the terms have different connotations, evidently there is not much professional difference for many of our readers.

I was a bit surprised by the huge proportion who have never worked in aid/development and probably never will: almost 1 in 8 readers. It suggests to me that these blogs reach beyond our immediate professional circles. Many of these readers may work in related fields (for example, I read a lot of defense/security blogs, even though I will probably never work in that field) but the answers to question 13 on professional status (above) suggest that some are also individual donors. That’s good news.


Next up from the blog survey findings: reading habits. For complete results, go here.