Sunday, March 17, 2013

Human Development Index: now and then

The new Human Development Report is out. It compares the 2012 Human Development Index (HDI) with the initial one, from 1990. Norway at the top, and Congo at the bottom of the list. As it turns out, only two countries, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, have seen their index scores fall. The chart below shows several countries (h/t The Economist).
The additional red dot, is the Inequality adjusted HDI (IHDI). Note also that in the case of Western European countries (Norway, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Britain) the IHDI is in between the 1990 and the 2012 HDI. So adjusted to inequality the HDI now is better than in 1990. That is not the case for the US. For the methodology for including inequality in the HDI go here.

The largest improvements in the index are Afghnistan (ravaged by a 10 year war with Russia when it started to be measured; and with significant transfers from the US now), China, Iran, India, and Egypt. Left of center countries in Latin America did reasonably well in the last 10 years.

The report suggests that: "the state of affairs in 2013 may appear as a tale of two worlds: a resurgent South—most visibly countries such as China and India, where there is much human development progress, growth appears to remain robust and the prospects for poverty reduction are encouraging—and a North in crisis—where austerity policies and the absence of economic growth are imposing hardship on millions of unemployed people and people deprived of benefits as social compacts come under intense pressure." Further, it argues that the number one driver of improvement in the Global South is a: "strong, proactive and responsible state [that] develops policies for both public and private sectors", since "governments can nurture industries that would not otherwise emerge."

PS: The HDI was developed by Amartya Sen, who also got the Sveriges Riksbank Prize. His work on the capabilities approach is based on social welfare theory and, while critical of the idea of rationality, in some aspects it remains founded in mainstream analysis. For a discussion of his critique of the mainstream and its relation to the one based on the surplus approach see the references provided by Robert Vienneau here. I remain skeptical about the compatibility of Sen's analysis with the old and forgotten classical tradition.


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  4. Yep, both are the same paper by Ben Fine; thanks!

  5. Yea, my mistake...wasn't sure if the first one went through.


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