Human Development

Human Development Index for Latin America and Caribbean Nations

Introduction

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:

HDI = 1/3 (life expectancy index) + 1/3 (education index)+ 1/3 (GDP index)

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.

Country2008
HDI Rank
2008
#
2004
HDI Rank
2004
#
 2004-200
Change in HDI #
High Human Development
     
 Barbados 37 0.889 31 0.879 +0.010
 Chile 40 0.874 38 0.859 +0.015
 Argentina 46 0.860 36 0.863 -0.003
 Uruguay 47 0.859 43 0.851 +0.008
 Cuba 48 0.855 50 0.826 +0.029
 Bahamas 49 0.854 52 0.825 +0.029
 Costa Rica 50 0.847 48 0.841 +0.006
 Mexico 51 0.842 53 0.821 +0.021
 Trinidad and Tobago 57 0.833 57 0.809 +0.024
 Panama 58 0.832 58 0.809 +0.023
 Antigua and Barbuda 59 0.830 59 0.808 +0.022
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 60 0.830 51 0.825 +0.005
 Venezuela, RB 61 0.826 72 0.784 +0.042
 Saint Lucia 66 0.821 71 0.790 +0.031
 Brazil 70 0.807 69 0.792 +0.015
 Ecuador 72 0.807 83 0.765 +0.042
 Medium Human Development     
 Dominica 77 0.797 68 0.793 +0.004
 Peru 79 0.788 82 0.767 +0.021
 Colombia 80 0.787 70 0.790 -0.003
 Grenada 86 0.774 85 0.762 +0.012
 Jamaica 87 0.771 104 0.724 +0.047
 Belize 88 0.771 95 0.751 +0.020
 Suriname 89 0.770 89 0.759 +0.011
 Dominican Republic 91 0.768 94 0.751  +0.017
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines  92 0.766 88 0.759 +0.007
 Paraguay 98 0.752 910.757 -0.005
 El Salvador 101 0.747 101 0.729  +0.018
 Guyana 110 0.725 103 0.725  0.000
 Bolivia 111 0.723 115 0.692 +0.031
 Honduras 117 0.714 117 0.683  +0.031
 Nicaragua 120 0.699 1120.698 +0.001
Guatemala 121 0.696 118 0.673  +0.023
Haiti 148 0.521 1540.482 +0.039

Background

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.

Further Reading


Return to the Latin America and the Caribbean Collection
Glossary

Citation

Saundry, P., & Cleveland, C. (2009). Human Development Index for Latin America and Caribbean Nations. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbee0a7896bb431f695b15

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