The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of human development that is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The HDI provides an alternative to the common practice of evaluating a country’s progress in development based on per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The HDI is the signature trademark of the Human Development Report (HDR), an independent report commissioned by the UNDP that is written by a team of scholars, development practitioners and members of the Human Development Report Office of UNDP. The HDI has had a significant impact on drawing the attention of governments, corporations and international organizations to aspects of development that focus on the expansion of choices and freedoms, not just income.
The HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
- A long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth.
- Knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weight) and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weight).
- A decent standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms in US dollars.
Before the HDI itself is calculated, an index is created for each of these dimensions. To calculate these indices—the life expectancy, education and GDP indices—minimum and maximum values (goalposts) are chosen for each underlying indicator. For example, in 2004 the maximum and minimum values for life expectancy were 85 and 25 years, respectively. Performance in each dimension is expressed as a value between 0 and 1. The HDI is then calculated as a simple average of the dimension indices:
The HDI for 2008 and 2004 for Latin America and Caribbean Nations
The following table shows the HDI value for 2004. A higher value indicates a higher level of development as indicated by the HDI.
Change in HDI #
|High Human Development |
|Trinidad and Tobago||57||0.833||57||0.809||+0.024|
|Antigua and Barbuda||59||0.830||59||0.808||+0.022|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||60||0.830||51||0.825||+0.005|
|Medium Human Development|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||92||0.766||88||0.759||+0.007|
The first Human Development Report (HDR) was published in 1990, under the leadership of Pakistani economist and finance minister Mahbub ul Haq and Indian Nobel Laureate for Economics Amartya Sen.
The principal motivation behind the HDR was, according to Sen, an overarching preoccupation with the growth of real income per capita as a measure of the well-being of a nation. Physical expansion of an economy, as measured by per capita GDP, does not necessarily mean that people are better off in the larger sense of the term: health, freedom, education, meaningful work and leisure time, for example. As stated in the inaugural 1990 HDR:
People are the real wealth of a nation. The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. This may appear to be a simple truth. But it is often forgotten in the immediate concern with the accumulation of commodities and financial wealth.
Since the first Report in 1990, four new composite indices for human development have been developed — the Human Development Index, the Gender-related Development Index, the Gender Empowerment Measure, and the Human Poverty Index.
- United Nations Development Programme
- Human Development Reports
- Human Development Index – background and statistics
- Human Development Reports - Statistics
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