Reporting on SDG Indicator 1.4.2 for High Income Countries: The Case of the US

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

By Caleb Stevens, Jennifer Lisher, Benjamin Linkow, and Diana Fletschner


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an ongoing United Nations initiative to set development priorities globally, and track them over time. The SDGs include a process of identifying indicators, setting targets, and collecting data to measure progress towards each goal. One of these, indicator 1.4.2, measures the percentage of the population with secure tenure rights to land, where security of tenure rights is proxied by whether people (a) have documented rights to land and (b) perceived their rights as secure. This indicator is closely aligned with the USG’s development agenda- secure and enforceable property rights, particularly with respect to land, are an essential precondition for an economy’s private sector to flourish. Indicator 1.4.2. currently has Tier 2 status in the SDG process, meaning that regular data collection will need to expand to at least 50% of participating countries in order for the indicator to be officially recognized as an SDG.

While it is important for all countries to report on indicator 1.4.2, little attention has been devoted to the particular set of opportunities and constraints facing high income countries (HICs). Vast amounts of data are routinely collected in HICs, which raises the possibility that existing data sources may include components of 1.4.2 and could thus provide a low-cost avenue for reporting. In the particular case of 1.4.2, real estate data and government property records are potential sources of data on the extent of legally documented land rights. This paper presents the results of an exercise to explore considerations and potential avenues for the US government to report on indicator 1.4.2, with an eye towards drawing lessons for other high income countries seeking to report on 1.4.2. In the remainder of the report, we provide further detail on indicator 1.4.2, describe potential data sources that were considered and our recommended approach for the USG, and present implications for other high income countries’ reporting efforts.

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