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Human Development Index


The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, the GDP per capita is higher, the fertility rate is lower, and the inflation rate is lower. The HDI was developed by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq working alongside Indian economist Amartya Sen, often framed in terms of whether people are able to "be" and "do" desirable things in their life, and was published by the United Nations Development Programme.

The 2010 Human Development Report introduced an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that "the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality)," and "the HDI can be viewed as an index of 'potential' human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality)."

The origins of the HDI are found in the annual Human Development Reports produced by the Human Development Reports Office 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 formed a group of development economists including Paul Streeten, Frances Stewart, Gustav Ranis, Keith Griffin, Sudhir Anand, and Meghnad Desai. Working alongside Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, they worked on capabilities and functions 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 politicians 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 was helped by Haq in order to develop the Index. Sen was worried that it was going to be difficult to capture the full complexity of human capabilities in a single index, but Haq insisted that only a single number would shift the immediate attention of politicians from economic to human well-being.


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