UN Human Development Index
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. It was created by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and the Indian economist Amartya Sen in 1990 and was published by the United Nations Development Programme.
In the 2010 Human Development Report a further Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) was introduced. While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that "the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality)" and "the HDI can be viewed as an index of “potential” human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality)".
- 1 Origins
- 2 Dimensions and calculation
- 3 2013 report
- 4 2011 report
- 5 2010 report
- 6 2009 report
- 7 2008 statistical update
- 8 2007/2008 report
- 9 Past top countries
- 10 Future HDI projections
- 11 Criticism
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes and references
- 14 External links
The origins of the HDI are found in the annual Development Reports of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These were devised and launched by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 and had the explicit purpose "to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centered policies". To produce the Human Development Reports, Mahbub ul Haq brought together a group of well-known development economists including: Paul Streeten, Frances Stewart, Gustav Ranis, Keith Griffin, Sudhir Anand and Meghnad Desai. Working along with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, they worked on capabilities and functionings that provided the underlying conceptual framework. Haq was sure that a simple composite measure of human development was needed in order to convince the public, academics, and policy-makers that they can and should evaluate development not only by economic advances but also improvements in human well-being. Sen initially opposed this idea, but he soon went on to help Haq develop the Index in the future. Sen was worried that it was going to be difficult to capture the full complexity of human capabilities in a single index but Haq persuaded him that only a single number would shift the attention of policy-makers from concentration on economic to human well-being.
Dimensions and calculation
New method (2010 Report onwards)
Published on 4 November 2010 (and updated on 10 June 2011), starting with the 2010 Human Development Report the HDI combines three dimensions:
- A long and healthy life: Life expectancy at birth
- Education index: Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling
- A decent standard of living: GNI per capita (PPP US$)
In its 2010 Human Development Report, the UNDP began using a new method of calculating the HDI. The following three indices are used:
1. Life Expectancy Index (LEI)
2. Education Index (EI)
- 2.1 Mean Years of Schooling Index (MYSI) 
- 2.2 Expected Years of Schooling Index (EYSI) 
3. Income Index (II)
Finally, the HDI is the geometric mean of the previous three normalized indices:
LE: Life expectancy at birth
MYS: Mean years of schooling (Years that a 25-year-old person or older has spent in schools)
EYS: Expected years of schooling (Years that a 5-year-old child will spend with his education in his whole life)
GNIpc: Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita
Old method (before 2010 Report)
The HDI combined three dimensions last used in its 2009 Report:
- Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity
- Knowledge and education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting).
- Standard of living, as indicated by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity.
This is the methodology used by the UNDP up until its 2011 report.
The formula defining the HDI is promulgated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) In general, to transform a raw variable, say , into a unit-free index between 0 and 1 (which allows different indices to be added together), the following formula is used:
where and are the lowest and highest values the variable can attain, respectively.
The Human Development Index (HDI) then represents the uniformly weighted sum with ⅓ contributed by each of the following factor indices:
- Life Expectancy Index =
- Education Index =
- GDP =
Other organizations/companies may include other factors, such as infant mortality, which produces different number of HDI.
The 2013 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program was released on March 14, 2013, and calculates HDI values based on estimates for 2012. Below is the list of the "very high human development" countries:
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank when compared to the new 2012 data HDI for 2011 – published in the 2012 report.
The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) is a "measure of the average level of human development of people in a society once inequality is taken into account."
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank. The changes in rank are not relative to the HDI list above, but are according to the source (p. 152) calculated with the exclusion of countries which are missing IHDI data.
Countries in the top quartile of HDI ("very high human development" group) with a missing IHDI: New Zealand, Chile, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Liechtenstein, Brunei, Andorra, Qatar, Barbados, United Arab Emirates, and Seychelles.
The 2011 Human Development Report was released on 2 November 2011, and calculated HDI values based on estimates for 2011. Below is the list of the "very high human development" countries (equal to the top quartile):
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank when compared to the 2011 HDI data for 2010 – published in the 2011 report (p. 131).
Below is a list of countries in the top quartile by Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). According to the report, the IHDI is a "measure of the average level of human development of people in a society once inequality is taken into account."
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank when compared to the 2011 HDI list, for countries listed in both rankings.
Countries in the top quartile of HDI ("very high human development" group) with a missing IHDI include: New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Andorra, Brunei, Malta, Qatar, Bahrain, Chile, Argentina and Barbados.
Countries not included
Some countries were not included for various reasons, mainly the unavailability of certain crucial data. The following United Nations Member States were not included in the 2011 report: North Korea, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, San Marino, South Sudan, Somalia and Tuvalu.
The 2010 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program was released on November 4, 2010, and calculates HDI values based on estimates for 2010. Below is the list of the "very high human development" countries:
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank when compared to the 2009 HDI published in the 2010 report.
The 2010 Human Development Report was the first to calculate an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), which factors in inequalities in the three basic dimensions of human development (income, life expectancy, and education). Below is a list of countries in the top quartile by IHDI:
Note: The green arrows (), red arrows (), and blue dashes () represent changes in rank when compared to the 2010 HDI list, for countries listed in both rankings.
Countries in the top quartile of HDI ("very high human development" group) with a missing IHDI include: New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Republic of China (Taiwan), Andorra, United Arab Emirates, Malta, Brunei, Qatar, Bahrain and Barbados.
Countries not included
Some countries were not included for various reasons, mainly the unavailability of certain crucial data. The following United Nations Member States were not included in the 2010 report. Cuba lodged a formal protest at its lack of inclusion. The UNDP explained that Cuba had been excluded due to the lack of an "internationally reported figure for Cuba’s Gross National Income adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity". All other indicators for Cuba were available, and reported by the UNDP, but the lack of one indicator meant that no ranking could be attributed to the country.. The situation has been addressed and, in later years, Cuba has ranked as a High Human Development country.
The 2009 Human Development Report by UNDP was released on October 5, 2009, and covers the period up to 2007. It was titled "Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development". The top countries by HDI were grouped in a new category called "very high human development". The report refers to these countries as developed countries. They are:
Countries not included
Some countries were not included for various reasons, such as being a non-UN member or unable or unwilling to provide the necessary data at the time of publication. Besides the states with limited recognition, the following states were also not included.
2008 statistical update
A new index was released on December 18, 2008. This so-called "statistical update" covered the period up to 2006 and was published without an accompanying Human Development Report. The update is relevant due to newly released estimates of purchasing power parities (PPP), implying substantial adjustments for many countries, resulting in changes in HDI values and, in many cases, HDI ranks.
Countries not included
Some countries were not included for various reasons, such as being a non-UN member, unable, or unwilling to provide the necessary data at the time of publication. Besides the states with limited recognition, the following states were also not included.
The Human Development Report for 2007/2008 was launched in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 27, 2007. Its focus was on "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world." Most of the data used for the report are derived largely from 2005 or earlier, thus indicating an HDI for 2005. Not all UN member states choose to or are able to provide the necessary statistics.
The report showed a small increase in world HDI in comparison with last year's report. This rise was fueled by a general improvement in the developing world, especially of the least developed countries group. This marked improvement at the bottom was offset with a decrease in HDI of high income countries.
A HDI below 0.5 is considered to represent "low development". All 22 countries in that category are located in Africa. The highest-scoring Sub-Saharan countries, Gabon and South Africa, are ranked 119th and 121st, respectively. Nine countries departed from this category this year and joined the "medium development" group.
A HDI of 0.8 or more is considered to represent "high development". This includes all developed countries, such as those in North America, Western Europe, Oceania, and Eastern Asia, as well as some developing countries in Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula. Seven countries were promoted to this category this year, leaving the "medium development" group: Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Libya, Macedonia, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
On the following table, green arrows () represent an increase in ranking over the previous study, while red arrows () represent a decrease in ranking. They are followed by the number of spaces they moved. Blue dashes () represent a nation that did not move in the rankings since the previous study.
Past top countries
The list below displays the top-ranked country from each year of the Human Development Index. Norway has been ranked the highest ten times, Canada eight times, followed by Japan which has been ranked highest three times. Iceland has been ranked highest twice.
In each original report
The year represents when the report was published. In parentheses is the year for which the index was calculated.
- 2013 (2012)– Norway
- 2011 (2011)– Norway
- 2010 (2010)– Norway
- 2009 (2007)– Norway
- 2008 (2006)– Iceland
- 2007 (2005)– Iceland
- 2006 (2004)– Norway
- 2005 (2003)– Norway
- 2004 (2002)– Norway
- 2003 (2001)– Norway
- 2002 (2000)– Norway
- 2001 (1999)– Norway
- 2000 (1998)– Canada
- 1999 (1997)– Canada
- 1998 (1995)– Canada
- 1997 (1994)– Canada
- 1996 (1993)– Canada
- 1995 (1992)– Canada
- 1994 (????)– Canada
- 1993 (????)– Japan
- 1992 (1990)– Canada
- 1991 (1990)– Japan
- 1990 (????)– Japan
Future HDI projections
In April 2010, the Human Development Report Office providedHuman Development Research paper 2010/40, pp. 40–42). These projections were reached by re-calculating the HDI, using (for components of the HDI) projections of the components conducted by agencies that provide the UNDP with data for the HDI.
The Human Development Index has been criticised on a number of grounds including failure to include any ecological considerations, focusing exclusively on national performance and ranking, lack of attention to development from a global perspective, measurement error of the underlying statistics, and on the UNDP's changes in formula which can lead to severe misclassification in the categorisation of 'low', 'medium', 'high' or 'very high' human development countries. The index has also been criticized as "redundant" and a "reinvention of the wheel", measuring aspects of development that have already been exhaustively studied. It has been further criticised for an inappropriate treatment of income, lacking year-to-year comparability, and assessing development differently in different groups of countries.
Economists Hendrik Wolff, Howard Chong and Maximilian Auffhammer discuss the HDI from the perspective of data error in the underlying health, education and income statistics used to construct the HDI. They identify three sources of data error which are due to (i) data updating, (ii) formula revisions and (iii) thresholds to classify a country’s development status and find that 11%, 21% and 34% of all countries can be interpreted as currently misclassified in the development bins due to the three sources of data error, respectively. The authors suggest that the United Nations should discontinue the practice of classifying countries into development bins because the cut-off values seem arbitrary, can provide incentives for strategic behavior in reporting official statistics, and have the potential to misguide politicians, investors, charity donors and the public who use the HDI at large. In 2010 the UNDP reacted to the criticism and updated the thresholds to classify nations as low, medium, and high human development countries. In a comment to The Economist in early January 2011, the Human Development Report Office responded to a January 6, 2011 article in the magazine which discusses the Wolff et al. paper. The Human Development Report Office states that they undertook a systematic revision of the methods used for the calculation of the HDI and that the new methodology directly addresses the critique by Wolff et al. in that it generates a system for continuous updating of the human development categories whenever formula or data revisions take place.
Each year, UN member states are listed and ranked according to the computed HDI. If high, the rank in the list can be easily used as a means of national aggrandizement; alternatively, if low, it can be used to highlight national insufficiencies. Using the HDI as an absolute index of social welfare, some authors have used panel HDI data to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life.
Ratan Lal Basu criticises the HDI concept from a completely different angle. According to him the Amartya Sen-Mahbub ul Haq concept of HDI considers that provision of material amenities alone would bring about Human Development, but Basu opines that Human Development in the true sense should embrace both material and moral development. According to him human development based on HDI alone, is similar to dairy farm economics to improve dairy farm output. To quote: "So human development effort should not end up in amelioration of material deprivations alone: it must undertake to bring about spiritual and moral development to assist the biped to become truly human." For example, a high suicide rate would bring the index down.
A few authors have proposed alternative indices to address some of the index's shortcomings. However, of those proposed alternatives to the HDI, few have produced alternatives covering so many countries, and that no development index (other than, perhaps, Gross Domestic Product per capita) has been used so extensively—or effectively, in discussions and developmental planning as the HDI.
However, there has been one lament about the HDI that has resulted in an extending of its geographical coverage: David Hastings, of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific published a report geographically extending the HDI to 230+ economies, whereas the UNDP HDI for 2009 enumerates 182 economies and coverage for the 2010 HDI dropped to 169 countries.
- Lists by Human Development Index
- List of countries by Human Development Index
- African countries
- Argentine provinces
- Australian states and territories
- Brazilian states
- Chilean regions
- Chinese administrative divisions
- Sovereign states in Europe
- Indian states
- Indonesian provinces
- Latin American countries
- Mexican states
- Pakistani Districts
- Philippine provinces
- Russian federal subjects
- South African provinces
- U.S. states
- Venezuelan states
- System of National Accounts which contains alternative ways of measuring progress.
Notes and references
- Human Development Report
- 2010 Human Development Index Update
- Human Development Interactive Map
- Human Development Tools and Rankings
- PDF (5.54 MB)
- An independent HDI covering 232 countries, formulated along lines of the traditional (pre-2010) approach.
- List of countries by HDI at NationMaster.com
- America Is # ... 15? by Dalton Conley, The Nation, March 4, 2009
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