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Socio-Economic Characteristics

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Results for this study are based on a total of 4,501 interviews conducted nationwide with randomly selected adult (i.e., above the age of 18) residents of Liberia between November 1 and December 13, 2010. This chapter provides the socio-economic characteristics of the sample, which was designed to be representative of the adult Liberian population. These characteristics provide context for the analysis in subsequent chapters, but are also of value in themselves for understanding the demographics and socio-economic situation of respondents.

Table 1 presents the demographic characteristics of the sample across counties. The sample comprised an equal proportion of men and women (50% each). The average age of the respondents was 37.4 years old, with 29% below the age of 30 and 14% aged 50 or above.

Most respondents were in a marital relationship or partnership, with 48% reporting monogamous marriage, 6% reporting polygamous marriage, and 21% reporting a partnership. Polygamous marriages were most frequent in Grand Cape Mount (17% of respondents) and River Gee (15%).

A majority of the respondents surveyed reported being Christian (86%), and 10% indicated being Muslim. There were important differences across counties, with a majority of the population reporting to be Muslim in Grand Cape Mount (66%), and over one in five respondents in Bomi (37%), Gbarpolu (22%), and Lofa (21%).

Table 1: Characteristics of Respondents

Table 1 - Characteristics of Respondents

In terms of education, 35% of the respondents indicated having no formal education, 16% had only primary education, and 48% had at least some secondary education. On average, respondents in Greater Monrovia, Rural Montserrado and Nimba were most educated.

Men were significantly more likely than women to be literate and educated. Less than half the women (45%) reported being able to read and write simple messages compared to 73% of the men. Similarly, 45% of the women reported never having attended primary school, compared to 25% of the men.

With regards to ethnicity, the ethnic composition of the sample is representative of the national distribution. The Kpelle are the largest group (20%) and are especially frequent in Bong, Margibi, Gbarpolu, and Rural Montserrado. Other ethnic groups include the Bassa (16%), Grebo (10%), Gio (8%), Mano (8%), Kru (6%), Loma (6%) and Krahn (5%), among others. Other groups that represent less than 5% of the total population include the Vai, Gola, Kissi, Gbandi, Mandingo, Sapo, Belle, and Mende. The distribution of the different ethnic groups shows strong differences across counties. For example, the Grebo are a large majority of the population in Maryland (82%) and River Gee (87%).


Wealth and Occupation


Table 2: Wealth and Occupation

Table 2 - Wealth and Occupation

Three indicators were used as a proxy for the standard of living. First, the total number of assets owned was assessed using a standard list of non-productive assets such as tables and chairs. The 20% of households with the lowest number of assets were identified as the “poorest assets quintile.” Second, self-reported information on household total income was used to identify (1) those with an average income below 0.5 US$ per day per capita, and (2) those 20% of respondents who reported the lowest income (“poorest per capita income quintile”). These proxy measures for wealth are not adapted for comparison with other countries because, for example, the list of assets may change, but they provide valuable information for comparing wealth across counties within Liberia.

The results presented in Table 1 suggest a large rural and urban divide in wealth. Respondents in Greater Monrovia were least likely to be within the poorest assets and lowest per capita income quintile. A high proportion of respondents belonged to the poorest quintiles in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, River Gee and Rivercess.

The results also reveal a gender divide. Women were significantly more likely than men to belong to the poorest wealth quintile: 29% of the women belonged to the poorest assets quintile, compared to 18% of the men. Similarly, 27% of women respondents belonged to the lowest per capita income quintile, compared to 14% of men. This may reflect lower income in households where women were selected, or differences in reporting.

Finally, the results suggest a strong association between wealth and education. Over 30% of respondents who indicated having no formal education belonged to the poorest assets and income quintiles, compared to about 10% among those with at least some secondary education. Similarly, income levels, on average, increase with higher levels of education.


To sustain their livelihoods, respondents’ households most frequently reported farming activities (43%), or commercial activities (seller, business–22%) as their main occupations. Skilled and unskilled (day) labor was the main occupation for 7% and 5% of respondents, respectively. In addition to their main occupation, 11% of the respondents indicated that their households received remittances from outside of the country at least occasionally. Remittances were most frequent in Greater Monrovia (24% of respondents), Rural Montserrado (10%), and Grand Gedeh (10%).