18 Aug

English language proficiency in the Caucasus

I’m working on a project right now looking at the relationship between English language proficiency and Internet use in the Caucasus.

Although wandering around Yerevan, Baku, or Tbilisi might tell you something different, English language proficiency in these countries is actually quite low.

Between 1-4% of the population considers themselves “advanced” in the English language and two-thirds to three-quarters have no proficiency whatsoever.

And despite conventional wisdom, it looks like there hasn’t been much growth in English proficiency since Caucasus Barometer started measuring it in 2007. And in Azerbaijan it seems to have gone down a little bit (out migration?).

What are the demographic characteristics that predict English language proficiency?

First, one’s education level (standardized beta .30) is the stronger predictor of English language proficiency.

Next is one’s urbanness. The more urban you are (capital, regional city, rural area), the more likely you are to know English (standardized beta .15).

Then one’s material deprivation (which means wealth/poverty). The wealthier you are, the more likely you are to know English (standardized beta .13).

Finally, gender matters. Women are more likely to know English (there is a lot of research on this and isn’t surprising) (standardized beta .07).

Age didn’t matter at all.

11 Aug

Summary of all economic wellbeing posts – Poverty in the Caucasus

Since I posted a lot of analyses on economic wellbeing in the Caucasus, I thought that I’d put links to them all in one post.

Overall, I hope that this gives people a better sense of what dire poverty exists in all three states. If pressed, I’d say that based on these analyses, Georgia is doing the worst overall and Azerbaijan is doing the best. But without a doubt, there are more similarities in poverty in these three neighbors than there are differences.

Consumption ability
Consumption ability by capital/urban/rural
New consumption 2012

Income sources
Income distribution

Ownership of consumer goods

Food expenses
Borrowing money to buy food


Debt and savings


Please feel free to ask questions or requests for further analysis.

11 Aug

What are the sources of income in the Caucasus?

So where do people in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia get the money that they need to live?

For most households, the primary source of income comes from a paid salary (43% in Armenia, 44% in Azerbaijan, 32% in Georgia).

Another primary source of income for many families is a pension or other government benefit (23% in Armenia, 28% in Azerbaijan, and 30% in Georgia.)

Agricultural sales is another primary source (12% in Armenia, 12% in Azerbaijan, and 15% in Georgia).

But perhaps more interesting looking at total sources of money. Nearly 20% of Armenian families use money from relatives abroad to live on (11% of families use it as the PRIMARY source of income).

In all three countries, relatives help our other relatives that live in the same place (maybe a capital city relative helps village relatives?) (11% in Armenia, 8% in Azerbaijan, and 12% in Georgia).

But what is really interesting is that half of all families depend on some form of government assistance for money, although only a quarter or so say that it is their primary income.

In all three countries, salary and pension are the primary ways that people get money.

11 Aug

Not surprisingly, Yerevan, Baku, and Tbilisi residents wealthier

Regional differences are a big deal in the Caucasus. Thus, I did a comparison between capital city residents, those that live in regional cities, and rural villagers with the 2010 Caucasus Barometer.

In Armenia in 2010, people living in the capital have the most consumption ability (mean = 2.33), followed by regional cities (mean = 2.04), and the least able to consume are rural people (mean = 1.89).

In Azerbaijan in 2010, people living in the capital are the most able to consume (mean = 2.52), while people in regional cities (mean = 2.11) and rural (mean = 2.12) areas are no different in their consumption ability.

In Georgia in 2010, people living in the capital have the most consumption ability (mean = 2.29), followed by regional cities (mean = 2.11), and the least able to consume are rural people (mean = 1.97).

Comparing all three countries, the group that is able to consume the most is

1. AZ capital
2. AM capital
3. GE capital
4 (tie). AZ rural/ AZ urban / GE urban
5. AM urban
6 (tie). AM rural / GE rural

Thus, a rural Azerbaijani has more ability to buy things than a regional city Armenian or any Armenian or Georgian rural person.

11 Aug

Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians’ Food Expenses

Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians were asked to estimate what percentage of their income is used for food and utilities.

Overall, people in the Caucasus aren’t spending a lot on utilities.

Food, on the other hand, uses up quite a bit of a family’s income.

In all three countries, about half of all families spend more than 50% of their take home on food expenses.

As a comparison, Americans spend 5-6% of their income on food and Russians spend about 20% of their income on food.

11 Aug

Income Distribution in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

So with all this poverty, how much money are Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians making?

In Armenia in 2010, the average monthly income was about $200 (mean = 4.74, SD = 1.28).
In Azerbaijan in 2010, the average monthly income was about $300 (mean = 4.17, SD = 1.28).
In Georgia in 2010, the average monthly income was about $150 (mean = 5.42, SD = 1.30).

Between 2009 and 2010, Armenia moved closer to a bell curve of income distribution. In 2009, the vast majority made less than $250 U.S.

In Azerbaijan as well, the distribution is moving closer to a larger middle class.

Georgia remains skewed towards the lower end of income distribution.

11 Aug

Many Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian Households have to Borrow Money to Buy Food

With the high level of poverty, it is not surprising that many Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians borrow money to buy food.

In Armenia, the number of households that have to borrow money regularly has grown from 13% in 2007 to 31% in 2010. Nearly a third of all Armenian families borrow money MONTHLY to buy food. (And the percent of families that do not have to borrow money for food has remained constant.)

In Azerbaijan, things have remained relatively constant as well. Not very many families have to borrow money regularly, but about a quarter have to borrow occasionally. This raises concern about the overall poverty situation. Do Azerbaijani families have more trouble at particular times of the year? Are there times when a lot of money comes in or perhaps are they less inclined to have to borrow in the summer months when they can grow their own?

In Georgia, only about a third of households never borrow money for food and the percentages have remained stable over the four years, more or less. Like in Armenia, there are a large number of families that borrow monthly (about 20%) and like in Azerbaijan, there are a large number of families that have to borrow now-and-then (almost 30%).

11 Aug

Poverty in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

To me, this is the most telling analysis of all. (In my series of economic wellbeing in the Caucasus, analysis of Caucasus Barometer data.)

About a quarter to a third of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians say that they do not have enough money for food.

Further, another third (give or take), although they can buy food, do not have enough money for clothes.

Less than 10% of everyone in the Caucasus has enough money to buy an expensive item. In Armenia and Georgia only 1% can afford whatever they want (Azerbaijan, not surprisingly, is a bit higher).

Additionally, in the 3 years that this covered, there hasn’t been a great deal of movement.

It appears that some Azerbaijanis became poorer in 2009 and 2010, compared to 2008. (Global economic crisis?) And Georgia had a 2009 downturn (global economic crisis and the Russian-Georgian war?).

Although food prices and other consumables are rising, it doesn’t look like Armenians, Azerbaijanis, or Georgians are able to manage this well.

(If you’re interested in any breakdown of these numbers – rural/urban/capital, gender, age, education, please let me know – I’m happy to do so.)


View more presentations from Katy Pearce.
11 Aug

Debt and Savings in the Caucasus

Following on the consumption theme, it appears that about half of all Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians have debt. And few Armenians and Georgians have any savings (Azerbaijanis are slightly more likely to have savings).

While this isn’t the most mind blowing analysis, it is interesting to get some insight on how people are managing their money (or not).

10 Aug

What do Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians own?

More on the topic of consumption… now on to durable goods and ownership in Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian households.

TVs and DVD players: Everyone, more or less, in Armenia and Azerbaijan has a TV. Interestingly, less than two-thirds of Georgians in 2007 had a TV — is this a refugee issue? An electricity issue? (Electricity access in Georgia was much worse (in recent years) than in Armenia or Azerbaijan.) Maybe Georgians have other things to do rather than sit around watching the tube! But it looks like Georgians are quickly catching up to their neighbors, with 83% of households now owning a set.
And the number of households with a DVD player has increased over the years in all countries. Georgia still has a much lower penetration of DVD players though and Armenia is notably higher than both Azerbaijan and Georgia. Do Armenians like movies more than their neighbors do? Maybe the pirated DVD business in Armenia is better than in the other two?

Appliances: It must be hot in Azerbaijan! About a quarter of Azerbaijanis have air conditioning. Very few Armenians or Georgians do. Is it hotter there? Maybe. My guess is that there are more newer homes in Azerbaijan and those newer homes were built with air conditioning systems.

Nearly everyone in Azerbaijan also owns a refrigerator. Three-quarters of Armenians do. This was a big surprising to me. Where do the other quarter keep their perishable food? And most surprising of all is that only 60% of Georgians have a refrigerator. Where do 40% of Georgians keep their food? My guess is at a neighbor or family member’s house. This particular item was really telling to me. While washing machines and air conditioners are luxury items, having refrigerator is pretty essential. (This may also be due to the electricity problems that Georgia faced for a long time.)

I did a quick search and it looks like the biggest concern about households without a refrigerator is the potential for food to go bad and have ill health effects. Also, owning a refrigerator allows a family to buy grocery items on sale, keep them fresh for later use, and reduce number of trips to the store. I intend to do a deeper search in the future on this topic. I’d also like to see who are the refrigerator haves and have-nots in Georgia and Armenia.

And finally, washing machines. Hans Rosling argues that the washing machine has been revolutionary because it frees up time for other activities.

It looks like Armenians and Azerbaijanis are more likely to have an automatic washing machine as well.

Cars: About a quarter of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians own cars. Boring. (I can go into greater depth on this if anyone is interested… who owns them – male/female, wealthy?)

Information and Communication Technologies: This is my pet topic and my main research interest and I’ve written about it a lot all over this blog. However, I wanted to include this information here as well.

There is a great deal of mobile phone ownership in all 3 countries and it has grown rapidly since 2007. Georgians are a little behind their neighbors in terms of phone ownership, but not by much. Azerbaijan seems to be stalling out a bit on mobile phone adoption. I’m not sure why though. I’ll need to do an analysis of who the non-adopters are to make any guesses.

Personal computers, however, really vary. I’ve written elsewhere about the huge jump that Armenia has made in PC adoption. But all-in-all, there is some growth in Georgia as well. Azerbaijan seems to be stuck in the low teens. I have some thoughts on this. First, the Azerbaijani government isn’t all that keen on encouraging its citizens to use technology. Secondly, the Internet access throughout the country is much better in Armenia and Georgia. Thus, if the ability to get online is a primary determinant of purchasing a PC, it makes sense that Azerbaijan would be a bit behind.