Human Development Index

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The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to distinguish whether the country is a developed, a developing or an under-developed country, and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life. There are also HDI for states, cities, villages, etc. by local organizations or companies.


The origins of the HDI are found in the annual Human 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. But it was Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work 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 went on to help Haq develop the Human Development Index (HDI). Sen was worried that it was 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.

Data collection:

Life expectancy at birth is provided by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; mean years of schooling by Barro and Lee (2010); expected years of schooling by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics; and GNI per capita by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. For few countries, mean years of schooling are estimated from nationally representative household surveys. Many data gaps still exist in even some very basic areas of human development indicators. While actively advocating for the improvement of human development data, as a principle and for practical reasons, the Human Development Report Office does not collect data directly from countries or make estimates to fill these data gaps in the Report.

Dimensions and calculation:

Published on 4 November 2010, starting with the 2010 Human Development Report the HDI combines three dimensions:

1. A long and healthy life: Life expectancy at birth

2. Access to knowledge: Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling

3. A decent standard of living: GNI per capita (PPP US$)

The HDI combined three dimensions up until its 2010 report:

1.Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity 2.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). 3.Standard of living, as indicated by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity.

New methodology for 2010 data onwards:

In its 2010 Human Development Report the UNDP began using a new method of calculating the HDI....
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