What Does "Human Development Index" Mean?


Quick Answer

The Human Development Index, devised by the United Nations Development Program, is a means of assessing a country's development based on life expectancy, literacy, education and income. Every year, the United Nations publishes a Human Development Report based on data compiled from the Human Development Index.

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Full Answer

In 1990, Mahbub ul Haq, a Pakistani economist and finance minister, and Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from India, organized and compiled the first Human Development Report. The rationale behind the report was the realization that development could not be measured merely by income per capita but had to also take into account human factors such as health, literacy rate and standard of living. In 2010, an inequality-adjusted Human Development Index was added to the Human Development Report. This took into account a country's inequalities in the distribution of income, education and health.

The office of the Human Development Report does not directly collect data from countries but rather compiles it from a number of sources. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs provides data on life expectancy. UNESCO's Institute for Statistics provides data on education. Schooling statistics from some countries are derived from nationally representative surveys of households. When all the data is compiled and countries receive their ratings, they are divided into four categories: very high human development, high human development, medium human development and low human development. The list released in 2013 had Norway as the top-rated country and Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the lowest-rated countries.

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