Human Development Index


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The Human Development Index is a composite statistics used to rank countries by levels of human development. The HDI is a measure of health, education and income. It measures the average achievements in a country in these three basic dimensions of human development, calculated into an index. The 2010 Human Development Report revised the HDI formula using data and methodologies that were not available in most countries when the first HDI was published in the 1990 Human Development Report. The HDI is currently calculated using the following indicators:

  • Health - Life expectancy at birth
  • Education - expected years schooling for school-age children and average years of schooling in the adult population
  • Income - measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (PPP US$)

Due to methodological refinements of the HDI formula introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report, the 2010 HDI rankings are not directly comparable to those in earlier Reports.


Top 10 Countries by HDI ranking (2010 Human Development Report)

1. Norway
2. Australia
3. New Zealand
4. United States
5. Ireland
6. Lichtenstein
7. Netherlands
8. Canada
9. Sweden
10. Germany

Lowest 10 Countries by HDI ranking

160. Mali
161. Burkina Faso
162. Liberia
163. Chad
164. Guinea-Bissau
165. Mozambique
166. Burundi
167. Niger
168. Democratic Republic of the Congo
169. Zimbabwe

The non-income Human Development Index

The non-income HDI is Human Development Index calculated without the income component (just with health and education). The non-income HDI seeks to show countries in the world that do best in terms of non-income development. When the non-income HDI is compared HDI with the ranking derived from the income indicator, the contrast is very interesting: only 2 countries (the US and Norway) are on both top 10 lists. There is also a vast difference in several countries from the Persian Gulf (Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE) make it into the top 10 income list but not into the non-income HDI list.[1]


The Human Development Index (HDI) was first published in 1990, under the guidance of Mahbub ul Haq, a former finance minister of Pakistan, with technical assistance from the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen. The HDI appears in the Statistical Annex of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) annual flagship publication, the Human Development Report.
The HDI was proposed as an alternative to conventional assessments of development based on measures of per capita income, such as Gross Domestic Product. Essentially, the measure aims to go beyond income to provide a broader look at a country’s well-being. Its components – health, education, and income - are intended to capture the essential dimensions of the quality of human life or human development.

Older versions of the HDI were calculated using the following indicators:

  • Health - Life expectancy at birth
  • Education - measured by adult literacy and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment ratio
  • Income - measured by GDP per capita (PPP US$)

How is it calculated?

The indicators of the three dimensions are calibrated and combined to generate an HDI score between zero and one. Countries are grouped into four human development categories or quartiles: very high, high, medium and low. A country is in the very high group if its HDI is in the top quartile, in the high group if its HDI is in percentiles 51–75, in the medium group if its HDI is in percentiles 26–50, and in the low group if its HDI is in the bottom quartile.

For more information on calculating the HDI refer to the 2010 Human Development Report’s Technical notes.


The HDI has come under criticism for some of the following reasons:

  • Too similar to GDP per capita in the outcome of the country rankings
  • The components (health, education and income) are weighted equally but do not necessarily equally contribute to human development
  • The components are too narrow and do not contain indicators of freedom or political development, which many consider crucial to human development
  • The indicators do not take into account inequalities within countries
  • Sustainability is not considered



Further Reading

  1. Clarke, M. (2006) Assessing well-being using hierarchical needs, in Mark McGillivray, Matthew Clarke (eds), Understanding Human Well-being, pp. 217-238, United Nations University Press, India
  2. M. McGillivray, H. White, "Measuring development? The UNDP's human development index", Journal of International Development, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 183-192, Nov, 2006.

See also

External Links

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