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The Human Development Index and related indices: what they are and what we can learn from them

Researchers have developed several indices that aim to capture human development. how do they work.

Measuring human development helps us understand how people’s lives and livelihoods vary across the world and how they have changed over time.

There are several prominent measures that try to capture these changes:

The Human Development Index (HDI)

  • The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI)

The Gender Development Index (GDI)

The augmented human development index (ahdi).

The first three are published by the United Nations Development Programme. The AHDI, meanwhile, was developed by the economic historian Leandro Prados de la Escosura.

All these measures seek to broaden the scope of development beyond simple economic growth and to capture other key metrics that track peoples’ living standards.

However, measuring human development comes with many challenges. People do not always agree on what should be included. And even once defined, features of human development are difficult to measure.

So how do these indices track human development? And what can we learn from them?

We summarize the similarities and differences between the different approaches in this article and how to decide on which one to use. 1

The Human Development Index is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2 It is the most well-known index of human development. It is based on the idea that human development means that people have long and healthy lives, are knowledgeable, and have a decent standard of living.

More specifically, these three dimensions are measured with four indicators:

  • A long and healthy life: measured by life expectancy at birth
  • Knowledge: measured by expected years of schooling (for children of school entering age) and average years of schooling (for adults aged 25 and older)
  • A decent standard of living: measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita

The index is then calculated by normalizing and aggregating these three indicators. First, the indicators are brought onto the same scale, ranging from 0 to 1. This is done by setting minimum and maximum values for each indicator 3 , and a country at or below the minimum value receiving a score of 0, and a country at or above the maximum value receiving a score of 1. 4

Second, the indicators are combined. This is done by calculating the arithmetic mean of the knowledge indicators and then calculating the geometric mean across the three dimensions. 5

The resulting HDI scores each country on a spectrum from 0 to 1. It covers almost all countries since 1990. 6

In addition to the index itself, it is also used to classify countries into groups depending on their development.

The Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI)

The UNDP also publishes the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). 7

It uses the same three principles of human development as the HDI: living a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having enough income to maintain a decent standard of living.

However, the IHDI acknowledges that life expectancy , education , and income differ within countries. It does so by using additional data on inequality within countries in each dimension to discount the HDI’s average values. 8

A country’s score on the IHDI therefore is the same as its HDI score if there is no inequality between people. The greater the inequality, the lower the IHDI relative to the HDI.

The IHDI also ranges from 0 to 1 and covers almost all countries since 2010.

The UNDP also publishes the Gender Development Index (GDI). 9

It characterizes human development like the HDI and the IHDI, but it acknowledges that life expectancy , expected and average access to education, and income differ between men and women.

It uses gender-specific data across three dimensions (such as incomes for men and women) to calculate HDIs for men and women separately. 10

The GDI is the ratio of the female HDI to the male HDI. Values below 1 indicate higher human development for men than women, while values above 1 indicate the opposite. Values closer to 1 therefore indicate higher gender equality.

It covers almost all countries since 1990.

In addition to the index itself, it is also used to classify countries into groups depending on how gender-equal they are.

The Augmented Human Development Index (AHDI) is produced by the economic historian Leandro Prados de la Escosura. 11 It gives a more historical perspective on human development by including long-run data. 12

Like the HDI, the AHDI characterizes human development as people having long and healthy lives, being knowledgeable, and having a decent standard of living. But AHDI adds a fourth dimension — civil and political freedom — and is based on slightly different indicators:

  • Knowledge: measured by average years of primary, secondary, and tertiary schooling (for people aged 15 and older)
  • A decent standard of living: measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita
  • Civil and political freedom: measured by the Varieties of Democracy’s Liberal Democracy Index

The index is again the result of normalizing and aggregating the specific indicators. 13

First, the indicators are brought onto the same scale from 0 to 1. But after setting minimum and maximum values for each indicator 14 , life expectancy and education are normalized logarithmically. 15 This is done because Prados de la Escosura considers development at already high levels a bigger achievement and because he sees these quantitative improvements as associated with higher quality.

Second, the indicators are combined in the same way as the HDI by calculating the geometric mean across the four dimensions. 16

The resulting AHDI scores each country on a spectrum from 0 to 1.

It covers most countries since 1870 and almost all since 1950.

The following chart shows that for the years where they overlap, the HDI and AHDI are closely associated, with countries that score high on one index also scoring high on the other. AHDI tends to give lower scores, though, and the differences are biggest for countries with low scores on both indices.

What can we learn from these indices?

Whether the Human Development Index and related measures are helpful to better understand human development will depend on the questions we want to answer.

If we want a general overview of people’s health, education, and living standards, we can learn much from this data.

The indices are particularly useful for identifying countries with better or worse human development than we would expect based purely on their level of economic development.

For example, the next chart compares a standard measure of economic development, GDP per capita, to the HDI. Looking for countries far from the diagonal helps us identify those that fare worse than expected based only on their economic development or those that do better than expected.

As another example, the following chart compares the HDI to the GDI. We again see that some countries do relatively worse when accounting for gender differences (such as Iran and Pakistan). In contrast, others do relatively better due to more gender-equal outcomes (such as Brazil and the Philippines).

Which specific index we should use depends on the questions we have.

If we are interested in a country’s general human development, we can use the HDI.

If we want to account for inequalities within countries, we should use the IHDI; if we are interested in gender differences specifically, the GDI is best.

And if we are interested in long-term trends and want to consider people’s civil and political freedoms, the AHDI is best.

For these general and specific strengths, we provide the Human Development Index and its related measures on our site.

The indices, however, will not give us a satisfying answer if we are interested in other aspects of human development, such as environmental sustainability or human security. They also will not satisfy us if we are interested in indicators with easy-to-understand scores.

In these cases, it is best to look at more specific indicators.

Interactive Charts on the Human Development Index

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Life Expectancy

People are living longer across the world, but large differences remain. Explore global data on life expectancy and how it has changed over time.

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Economic Growth

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How has democracy spread across countries? Are we moving towards a more democratic world? Explore global data and research on democracy.


We thank Saloni Dattani, Joe Hasell, Edouard Mathieu, Hannah Ritchie, and Max Roser for their very helpful comments and ideas about how to improve this article.

The summary and discussion draw on:

Prados de la Escosura, Leandro. 2023. Augmented Human Development Index. Concept, Sources and Procedures .

United Nations Development Programme. 2023. Gender Development Index .

United Nations Development Programme. 2023. Human Development Index (HDI) .

United Nations Development Programme. 2023. Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) .

United Nations Development Programme. 2023. Technical notes .

The minimum and maximum values are:

  • Life expectancy: 20 years minimum, 85 years maximum
  • Expected years of schooling: 0 years minimum, 18 years maximum (equivalent to a master’s degree in most countries)
  • Mean years of schooling: 0 years minimum, 15 years maximum
  • Gross National Income per capita: $100 minimum, $75,000 maximum (in 2017 Purchasing-Power-Parity international-$, logarithmized to reflect that incomes become less important as they increase).

The precise formula is:

Normalized indicator = (actual value – minimum value) / (maximum value – minimum value)

The formula is:

HDI = (Health Index * Education Index * Income Index)^(⅓)

Information from other countries is used to estimate a missing indicator’s values for a few country-years.

Normalized, inequality-adjusted indicator = Normalized indicator * (1 – geometric mean of the indicator’s distribution / arithmetic mean of its distribution)

The UNDP presumes a five-year biological advantage for women and therefore uses different minimum and maximum values:

  • Life expectancy for men: 17.5 years minimum, 82.5 years maximum
  • Life expectancy for women: 22.5 minimum, 87.5 maximum

The gender gap in life expectancy, however, varies around the world and has changed over time .

It replaces the earlier Historical Index of Human Development (HIHD).

It also entails some imputation, as one of the indicators is missing for some country-years. Prados de la Escosura uses information from neighboring countries or similar indicators to estimate the missing values.

  • School years: 0 years minimum, 15 years maximum
  • Liberal democracy index: 0 minimum, 1 maximum
  • Gross Domestic Product per capita: $100 minimum, $47,000 maximum ( international-$ at 1990 prices, logarithmized to reflect that additional income becomes less important as it increases).

Normalized indicator = (log(maximum value – minimum value) – log(maximum value – actual value)) / log(maximum value – minimum value)

GDP per capita (logarithmized) and the liberal democracy index are still transformed linearly, analogously to HDI’s normalization.

AHDI = (Health Index * Education Index * Income Index * Freedom Index)^(¼)

The geometric mean is used such that high scores in one index cannot readily make up for low scores in other dimensions.

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Human Development Essay: Topics, Examples, & How-to Guide

A human development essay explores how a person or group of people can grow and thrive.

A human development essay is a piece of writing that explores how a person or group of people can grow and thrive. Several disciplines study these processes and might require you to get ready with this kind of assignment:

  • Biology analyzes human body development issues throughout our lifespan;
  • Psychology views human development as gaining or abandoning certain behavioral trends;
  • Sociology explains the cause-and-effect relationships between an individual and a group;
  • Economics studies the growth of human freedoms through the improvement of their well-being.

This article systematizes the available bulk of knowledge on the importance of human development. We have collected the essential concepts and approaches you can explore through our human development essay topics and samples.

💵 Human Development in Economics

🤯 human development in psychology.

  • 🧒 Human Growth Essay Topics
  • 📑 Outlining Your Essay
  • 1️⃣ HD Theories: Essay Example
  • 2️⃣ HD & Economic Growth: Essay Example

The first Human Development Report introduced this notion back in 1990 . But the discussion of the relationship between economic growth and human development started in the middle of the 20 th century.

Now we believe that GDP is not the only indicator of our well-being . Human life is more than just selling, buying, and consuming.

Human development in economics focuses on the creation of equal rights and opportunities for everyone . This approach states that the entire society would prosper from the happiness of each of its members.

In these terms, human development has two dimensions:

  • enhancement of human abilities;
  • provision of prerequisites for our growth.

Human development has two dimensions: enhancement of human abilities and provision of prerequisites for our growth.

The former explores how we could ensure that everyone has access to education , healthcare, and decent living conditions. The latter involves achieving environmental sustainability and equality of rights and opportunities for people of all genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds.

Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) emphasizes that people and their well-being are the criteria for a country’s prosperity, not only its economic growth.

Today, we use HDI to question the efficiency of national policy. It also allows us to compare different countries with the same GDP but different human development levels. Analyzing this data, governments can refocus their priorities and correct past mistakes.

HDI is calculated as the geometric mean of the following normalized indices:

  • Life expectancy at birth is used to calculate the life expectancy index, where 85 years is the maximum.
  • The education index is the sum of the expected and mean years of schooling divided by 2.
  • This index is determined as GNI per capita.

Meanwhile, HDI is not as comprehensive as one might expect. HDRO (the Human Development Report Office) claims that it does not consider human inequalities, the empowerment of minorities, poverty levels, and gender disparity .

Psychology views human development from an individual’s perspective. This discipline distinguishes between three directions of human development.

The picture describes three directions of human development in psychology.

  • Physical changes occur in our bodies. How do we grow from a baby into an adult and from an adult into an older person? How do we acquire new motor skills, and what is the biology of our senses? What do our brains consist of , and how do they change with age? Correct answers to these questions help us explain the next direction.
  • Cognitive changes cause the development of human behavior. What goes on in our brain that defines what kind of people we are? This domain focuses on logical thinking, learning, understanding, moral reasoning , and practical intelligence. It searches for the ways we could learn faster and become better versions of ourselves.
  • Psychosocial changes track the growth of our social skills and preferences. It all starts with the principal caregiver. Gradually, we begin to interact with more people, such as friends, distant relatives, educators, and colleagues. It is all about our self-image, self-esteem , emotions, and relationships. The psychosocial domain also studies our ways to cope with losses or death.

Human Development Theories

The history of psychology knows many human development theories, many of which are still trusted. We will focus on the two fundamental approaches. They divide childhood into several critical stages that define our character, habits, likes, relationships, and even success in life.

Piaget’s 4 Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s theory is the most widely accepted approach to child development. He believed that children construct knowledge while they manipulate and explore the objects around them. Jean Piaget marked four stages of cognitive development .

  • Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years). A child learns that objects do not disappear. Their activity is all about experimenting with things to see what happens. This stage should culminate with developing the deferred imitation skill. It involves the ability to reproduce an action or sound made by another person later.
  • Preoperational stage (2-6 years). Children use symbols to represent words and ideas. They develop the language and make-believe play but still lack logical reasoning . They are egocentric and cannot imagine that other people may feel or think differently.
  • Concrete operational stage (6-12 years). Thinking becomes logical and focused. Children develop inductive reasoning: they observe to make generalizations about the world around them. But they still struggle with deductive thinking.
  • Formal operational stage (12 years – adulthood). Abstract thinking emerges. They learn to develop theoretical ideas to explain the world.

Freud’s 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development

The Father of Psychoanalysis believed that human personality consisted of ego, superego, and id. They become unified and inseparable once the child passes the five stages of psychosexual development.

  • Oral stage (0-1 year). The mouth is the pleasure center for the infant. That is why everyone is born with a sucking reflex. If the oral needs are not met during the first year of life, the child can start biting their nails or suck a thumb.
  • Anal stage (1-3 years). Children gain control over their bodily functions. They experiment with feces. But early toilet training can make a child too obsessed with order.
  • Phallic stage (3-6 years). Children find out the pleasure they can get from their genitals. According to Freud, this is when the sexual desire to the parent of the opposite sex emerges. Boys go through the Oedipus complex. They want to replace their father and see him as a rival in the mother’s love. Later, Carl Jung spoke of the Electra Complex, a similar mechanism in girls.
  • Latency stage (6-12 years). Sexual instincts give way to the superego. During this period, children adopt the moral principles and values of their parents.
  • Genital stage (12+ years). Sexual instincts reemerge. If all the above steps passed successfully, adolescents would show appropriate sexual behavior.

But this theory is too controversial to be taken for granted. Do parents define their child’s sexual and aggressive drives? Nobody knows for sure.

💡 232 Human Development Essay Topics

Since human development is a debatable and scarcely studied area of knowledge, it offers a whole lot of topics to discuss. For your convenience, we have divided them into two categories:

  • The first can be used for essays on human development psychology.
  • The second includes human growth and development essay topics in economics and sociology.

155 Human Development Topics (Psychology)

Psychology focuses on the emotional, intellectual, and social development of an individual. Scientists traditionally divide this growth into stages, according to the respective age. That is why the topics here can be about early childhood, parent-child relationships, school years, adolescence, marriage, and divorce .

  • Child psychology: Theories of development by J. Piaget .
  • How can parents facilitate their child’s relationships with peers?
  • Divorce: Psychological effects on children .
  • Which purposes does attachment play in infants?
  • Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of development.
  • Which ideas of Freud’s psychosexual development theory do you think are valid?
  • Find the common features between Freud’s psychosexual theory and Erikson’s psychosocial theory.
  • Child development and education.
  • Explore the causes of inferiority complex in adolescents.
  • Children’s play: An ingredient needed in children’s learning .
  • How does one’s sense of self influence their future relationships?
  • Corporal punishment and its effects on children.
  • Why do we need to reward the feeling of gratitude in adolescents?
  • What is the role of the family in shaping our social well-being?
  • Developmental psychology in adolescence.
  • Describe the principles of caregiving you consider as healthy and beneficial.
  • Personal development plan .
  • What is social knowledge, and where do we gain it?
  • Write a human development theories essay.
  • Emotional development in children and adults.
  • What do the preferred leisure activities of adolescents tell us about their development?
  • Early childhood classroom environment plan .
  • Does the gender of the main caregiver matter?
  • Study the effect of orphanage education on a child’s psychology.
  • The introduction to early childhood education.
  • Is a child’s family or school more defining for their development?
  • Second life : Professional development and communication .
  • How does patriarchal prejudice undermine the intellectual growth in girls?
  • Does the lack of college-level education make a person less smart?
  • Sigmund Freud’s personality and psychoanalysis.
  • How did dr. Maria Montessori use human tendencies for child development?
  • Adult learning theories .
  • How does a father’s toxic masculinity impact a boy’s emotional well-being?
  • Early childhood cognitive-based philosophy .
  • Make a research summary of the role of IQ in human development.
  • Explore the causes of the “terrible threes.”
  • Lifespan human development: perspective and theories.
  • Write a reflection about risk-taking behaviors in teenagers.
  • Linking human development to the human condition .
  • Is poverty the worst factor for a child’s development?
  • Early childhood education activities and trends .
  • Analyze the consequences of substance abuse in adolescence.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy for depression in adults .
  • Do children adopt their same-sex parent’s gender roles in adulthood?
  • Child abuse and neglect effects on adult survivors .
  • What is the role of creativity in a preschooler’s development?
  • Tools of the mind in the early childhood development.
  • Do you agree that all psychological disorders of children under 12 are caused by an unhealthy family atmosphere?
  • The theories of child development .
  • How do we learn to control our emotions?
  • How autistic children develop and learn?
  • Analyze the major results of gender-neutral education.
  • Early childhood education and skills development .
  • When is the due time to start sex education of children and why?
  • Erik Erikson’s theory of development .
  • What is the tole of symbolic function and make-believe play in a child’s development?
  • Family structure and its effects on children .
  • Why is egocentrism in children normal?
  • Infant development.
  • Establish the relationship between language development and intellectual growth.
  • Biological, cognitive, and socioemotional development .
  • Sexism in human development theories.
  • How an operant conditioning influences child development .
  • Awareness of age-related change helps to live a healthy life.
  • Middle childhood and adolescence development.
  • The adverse effect of malnutrition in a child’s development.
  • Assessment in early childhood: Special education .
  • When is stress positive and negative for the psychological development of an individual?
  • How video games affect children .
  • Analyze human development in multigenerational families.
  • Erickson’s psychosocial development and its stages.
  • Compare and contrast the American and Japanese approaches to education and their results.
  • Theoretical perspectives on human development: Freud, Piaget, and Skinner .
  • The role of controlled independence in childhood.
  • Technology impacts on the new generation of children .
  • Why is periodical boredom necessary for a child to develop?
  • Learning and student development theories and factors .
  • Why is human development the basic need of any society?
  • The development of secure and insecure attachments in children .
  • Why is intellectual growth so pleasurable for us?
  • Moral and personality development.
  • If the human development mechanism is equal for all, why are we so different?
  • 21 st century skills development .
  • Why do modern sociologists think we should work less?
  • Peer pressure on children in high school .
  • What could we learn from the indigenous African tribes in terms of the psychological development of children?
  • Interaction for child’s development and learning.
  • Schools: an unknown war where we miss our childhood?
  • Effects of media on children .
  • To which degree do genes determine our development?
  • Jean Piaget – cognitive theorist.
  • Why are foster children less prepared for adult life than their adopted peers?
  • When should children start school ?
  • When do children stop learning through play?
  • Managing stress better: Personal development .
  • Which socio-emotional factors make aging less depressing?
  • Preschool play role in the cognitive development.
  • The benefits and drawbacks of grandparents’ raising children.
  • Autism as the most prevalent developmental mental disorder .
  • How does lifelong learning benefit human brain?
  • Teaching and supporting adult learners .
  • How does lifestyle influence our cognition?
  • Parent-child relationships and parental authority .
  • Should adults develop an awareness of their aging?
  • Early intervention for young children with autism.
  • Why do scientists no longer view aging as a negative process?
  • Development and improvement of communication skills .
  • Which factors define our ability for emotional regulation?
  • Child’s play observation and parent interview .
  • Compare the Christian and Muslim cultural differences in human development.
  • The early abuse’ impacts on teenagers emotional development .
  • Are private nurseries and schools better for children’s development?
  • Behavior change in learning processes.
  • Why is generation alpha more emotionally intelligent than any earlier-born children?
  • Videogame addiction and its impact on children .
  • Shout less and explain more: the effect of the modern approach to caregiving.
  • Adult education, its objectives and approaches .
  • Why should we tell our daughters they are smart rather than beautiful?
  • Personal development: Career management .
  • How does social change impact the life of an individual? Give examples.
  • Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s child development theories.
  • Suggest mentoring interventions for at-risk adolescents.
  • Adult learning and effective instruction .
  • To which extent should we normalize children with developmental disorders?
  • Negative impacts of adult cartoon television programs on children .
  • Do developmental differences make us more human?
  • Social psychology in people’s life.
  • Do all families need psychotherapy, like they need a family doctor?
  • Childhood sexual abuse and adolescents’ self-esteem .
  • Which barriers do LGBT adolescents meet in their development?
  • Life-span development and personal life experiences .
  • Outline a positive youth development program.
  • Understanding learning: theories’ impacts.
  • Explain eating disorders as the result of incorrect upbringing.
  • The influence of online games on children and adults .
  • Describe the changes our brain suffers under continuous stress.
  • The psychological effect of 9-11 on young adults .
  • Typical vs. Atypical development in children.
  • Social psychology: group influence on the self.
  • Why is mindfulness important for human development?
  • Importance of a teacher in child development .
  • We learn behavioral health from our parents.
  • Divorce influence on childrens’ mental health.
  • How do behavioral phenotypes emerge during early development?
  • Child development theories: Comparative analysis .
  • Why do many children function differently in home, school, or community settings?
  • Communication role in the children’ development .
  • Suggest ways to identify co-occurring conditions in developmental disorders.
  • Psychological child development theories.
  • Describe the existing approaches to establishing healthy schools.
  • Piaget’s stages of cognitive development .
  • Parental autonomy vs. Monitoring: which is better for an adolescent?
  • Postpartum depression effect on children’s development .
  • How do parents’ beliefs and values determine their parenting strategies?
  • Childhood and optimal development analysis .

77 Human Development Topics (Economics)

  • How entrepreneurship in the energy sector can pave the way for sustainable development in Africa .
  • What are the parties involved in human development, and why don’t they share the same interests?
  • Should we care about income inequality ?
  • Why does totalitarianism entail stagnation?
  • Democratic and Economic Development in Asian Countries.
  • Do migrant incomes spur economic development in their native countries?
  • International human resource development .
  • How does the growth of female entrepreneurship favor economics?
  • A development of American society .
  • How can equal rights and possibilities of all people make governments more efficient?
  • Resolving the problems of poverty and income inequality .
  • How does the availability of loans benefit human development?
  • Development Theory and Human Rights.
  • Should towns transform into cities to become more prosperous?
  • Resource availability for low to moderate income families in New York City .
  • Is feminism a sign of human evolution?
  • Rapid urbanization in the developing world is increasing .
  • What is the impact of literacy campaigns in socially disadvantaged rural areas?
  • Poverty reduction in developing countries .
  • Find the relationship between water resources and the level of farming development in a given region.
  • Human Rights for Development.
  • Explore the growing urban-rural interactions in large cities.
  • Employment opportunity for people with learning disabilities in the UK .
  • Give examples of win-win scenarios in human evolution.
  • Analysing a community development: Case study .
  • Why do societies often ignore or resist the advantages of human development?
  • How innovation and growth strategy will develop Abu Dhabi economy through Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 .
  • Study the role of recreational possibilities for the local population.
  • Values of innovation and entrepreneurship in economic development .
  • The effect of food availability on human development.
  • Millennium Development and Well-Being of Families.
  • Do you support transnational social movements, and why?
  • Compensation and benefits in an area of human resources development .
  • Do religions favor economic development?
  • Influence of religion on the development of colonial American society .
  • Analyze the impact of socioeconomic context on human development.
  • Is nationalism beneficial for a country’s well-being?
  • The development of the industrial work environment .
  • Which factors impede poor people from growing their capital?
  • Crime prevention through social development .
  • Is leisure more critical for economic growth than production?
  • Alternative Fuels and the US Nation Development.
  • Should the government regulate human development, or is it unpredictable?
  • Development traps and failure: The negative consequences of disasters on the economy .
  • What are the external factors of human development in emerging countries?
  • Fiscal decentralisation and local economic development in Ghana .
  • Human Development Index (HDI) Vs. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • National human resource development in Asian states .
  • Which aspects would you include in the HDI formula?
  • Is late retirement beneficial for a country’s economic development?
  • Environment: Sustainable Development in Abu Dhabi.
  • Which material conditions affect human evolution?
  • The critical points of equal employment opportunity .
  • The role of sustainable development in a country’s well-being.
  • Globalization drives inequality: Liberalist and structuralist perspectives .
  • What is the primary goal of human development for economics?
  • The income gap in the US economy .
  • Are elevated birth rates a positive or negative factor for economic growth?
  • Human resources development in the UK and Australia .
  • What is the relationship between foreign capital penetration and human life expectancy in third-world countries?
  • Economic and Social Development of the UAE.
  • How does ethnic homogeneity influence human development in a given area?
  • Gender wage gap and inequality .
  • Why is the majority of wealthy countries democratic?
  • Human resource development practices to achieve economic growth: The case of Singapore .
  • Analyze the role of free medicine in social well-being.
  • How can the employment of the disabled favor a country’s economy?
  • Assessing why Nigeria LNG has been restricted in development .
  • How is the work/family balance of employees important for a company’s prosperity?
  • Workforce development and modern trends .
  • Explore the effect of an individual’s well-being on a country’s development.
  • Small business and development in South Africa .
  • How does democratization improve a country’s productivity?
  • Regional inequality of Yogyakarta .
  • How does English training in third-world countries influence their development?
  • Post-disaster development of Haiti .
  • New conceptions of adulthood among the youth in the developing countries.

🧒 Human Growth and Development Essay Topics

  • The impact of aging on human development.
  • How do role models promote moral and behavioral development in the 21st century?
  • Socioeconomic factors and their value in growth and development.
  • The development of moral predispositions at an early age.
  • The value of professional development of a person.
  • Genetic regulation of growth in height and weight in teenagers.
  • The role of initiative and guilt in the preschool age group.
  • What are the main red flags in growth and development?
  • Child health and human development over the lifespan.
  • Emotional development of a person from birth to old age.
  • Regulation of early human growth: the main peculiarities.
  • COVID-19 and its role in children’s social development.
  • How does environmental pollution affect human growth and development?
  • The language development in humans and its key stages.
  • How does maternal physical activity influence fetal growth?

Haven’t found the perfect topic in the lists above? Use our essay topic generator !

📑 Human Development Essay Outline

1. Introduction. By the end of your essay, your readers will surely forget what you wrote here. But do not underestimate the effect of a well-composed introduction on your audience’s expectations! Do your best to sound inspiring and upbeat in your human development essay introduction. Tell yourself, why did you select this topic? If it is an exciting issue for you, the readers will also get interested. So, the introduction speaks about the topicality and urgency of a problem. The thesis statement culminates your introduction. You should explain your position in a single sentence. Here are some good and bad examples:

Need to formulate a thesis statement? Use our thesis-making tool !

2. Main body. The primary rule here is structure. It is hard to read one long paragraph with many ideas. Introduce each argument from the new line. Give a topic sentence at the beginning of each section and then elaborate on it with examples and reflections.

3. Conclusion. In the field of human development, the conclusion of an essay should provide the prospects of the tendency you analyzed. Imagine yourself an analyst consulting an international company. What will happen if they continue doing the same? How can they reach different results? Once again, try to sound inspiring.

1️⃣ Human Development Essay Example #1 (Psychology)

Below you will find a sample of human development essays for a psychology-related discipline. It illustrates the outline we have mentioned above based on the topic Why Is Freud’s Developmental Theory considered outdated?

Human Development Theories Essay

1. Introduction. In the XXI century, we are all obsessed with development. We would like to become a better version of ourselves, develop our country, and humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, there is no axiom confirming the mechanism of human development.

Thesis statement. This essay explores the pitfalls of Freud’s developmental theory and questions its applicability.

2. Main Body.

Argument 1. Freud drew his theory from memories of his patients. But certain experiences people believe are true often turn out to be inaccurate. Sometimes, we fabricate our memories due to how we felt back then or would like to feel now. Thus, Freud used unreliable sources of information about child development.

Argument 2. Freud’s theory revolves around sexuality . But as Jung and Adler noticed, human life is more complicated than that. Oversimplification reduces us to instincts, which is not true. People have their subconscious fears and desires, but sexual energy is only one of their aspects.

Argument 3. Sigmund Freud only worked with adults. All adults are former children, but the researcher never studied children in their games, education, or frustrations. Freud had six kids, but his career never allowed him to spend much time with family. It is questionable how someone could draw conclusions about a child’s mental processes without actually speaking to a child.

3. Conclusion. Sigmund Freud largely contributed to modern psychology. He was the first to question our rational thinking and intellectual sobriety. But his five stages of psychosexual development are far from reality. First, they are constructed based on inaccurate and unreliable reports of mentally disturbed people. Second, sexuality is only one of the many things that make us who we are. Third, the scientist never did live research on children. That is why his theory is outdated now.

2️⃣ Human Development Essay Example #2 (Economics)

If you need to write an essay on human development while studying economics, you may use the following sample. It illustrates how to write an essay on the relationship between human development and economic growth.

Human Development and Economic Growth

1. Introduction. What happened first, human development or economic growth ? The early signs of economic growth appeared when the first people started exchanging their goods with the neighboring tribes. They had to develop a new skill and change their picture of the world to catalyze economic growth.

Thesis statement. This essay aims to confirm the two-way linkage between the development of individuals and economic growth.

Argument 1. If that first exchange of crops and cattle did not work out, we would have never got as developed as we are now. The economic growth that happened once we had mastered “business negotiations” gave us the necessary resources to develop other skills.

Argument 2. Human development is hardly predictable. The most significant improvements in technology, medicine, construction, and science happened during the most challenging times for humanity. The two world wars showed that we could develop when the economy is in decay. But the new production methods and scientific achievements give us an opportunity to grow the economy when things get better.

Argument 3. Economic growth without human development is limited. For example, when a third-world country receives an external capital inflow, its economy stabilizes or even grows. But if its population does not acquire new models of doing business, the money will end. Such a country will return to its previous poor condition.

3. Conclusion. It would be wrong to say that human development caused economic growth or vice versa. None of the two are possible without the other. Human development happened first, but further knowledge acquisition required economic growth. Improvement of the economy does not guarantee human intellectual growth. Meanwhile, it is an indispensable prerequisite for our development.

❓ Human Development Questions & Answers

What does the science of human development seek to understand.

This science tries to find the reasons why people tend to change over time or why they remain at the same level. It establishes the mechanisms through which we become more educated, moral, organized, and civilized. The science also describes the benefits and drawbacks of human development for the economy, sociology, psychology, and ecology.

What is Human Development and Family Studies?

Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the health and psychology of individuals throughout their lifespan. This area of knowledge discusses human life in the context of their family relationships and social roles. It is an interdisciplinary science that involves psychology, economy, and sociology.

How does culture affect human development?

Culture defines the way we perceive society and the world as a whole. It affects our vision of reality from early childhood. Culture influences our beliefs, values, and purposes. Moreover, it is a decisive factor for our self-image as an individual and a member of society.

What makes the study of human development a science?

The study of human development explores how we learn, mature, and adapt to changes and adverse conditions. It is largely related to psychology but also involves sociology, economics, anthropology, and biology. It is a science because it aims to describe, predict, and understand the changes in human behavior that bring us to development.

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Sir, I would like to write about human race of Asian paper, so please help me some idea how to write. and decide for me sir. Thank you

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A Simple Measure of Human Development: The Human Life Indicator

for much of the twentieth century, statistical measurements of human development emphasized economic magnitudes. In 1990, the United Nations offered an alternative and more comprehensive way of measuring human development, the Human Development Index (HDI) (UNDP 1990 ). The motivation behind the production of the HDI was that economic magnitudes alone provided too narrow a basis for assessing human development. The HDI represents a compromise between comprehensiveness and measurability. In the HDI, the level of human development is conceptualized as having three components: health, education, and economic conditions. These are quantified at the country level using four indicators: life expectancy at birth, mean and expected years of schooling, and the logarithm of Gross National Income per capita (PPP$). i The mean and expected years of schooling are combined into a single education index and it is this aggregate that enters the computation of the HDI. These indicators are then rescaled by using “goalposts” (i.e., the rescaled value is calculated as the observed value of each indicator minus the lower goalpost, all divided by the difference between the upper and lower goalposts). The goalposts often change with the HDI version. Although the details of how the HDI is computed have changed from time to time (see Appendix Table ​ TableA1 A1 for details), the UN has been publishing the “Human Development Reports” regularly since 1990, providing the values of the HDIs for approximately 180 countries around the world and ranking them accordingly (UNDP 1990 , 2005 , 2010 , 2011 , 2013 , 2014 , 2016b ).

Selected problems with the HDI

The 1990 Human Development Report was indeed a seminal publication and numerous articles on measuring human development have since been published. Despite its success, the methodology of the HDI has been widely criticized (see, for example, Kelley 1991 ; McGillivray 1991 ; Dasgupta and Weale 1992 ; Castles 1998 ; Sagar and Najam 1998 ; Booysen 2002 ; Lutz and Goujon 2004 ; Kovacevic 2011 ; Wolff, Chong, and Auffhammer 2011 ). This is not surprising since its construction involves a series of assumptions regarding weighting, functional forms, and the selection of the policy components. In some cases, criticisms and debates have helped improve the index. Nevertheless, some limitations of the HDI remain. We focus on four of them here: (1) measurement errors in its components, with the economic component having the greatest measurement error, (2) historical inconsistency, (3) unjustified trade‐offs across its components, and (4) the correlation of its components.

Errors in the components

One important limitation of the HDI arises because of the high level of measurement error in each one of its components (see, for example, Castles 1998 ). Wolff, Chong, and Auffhammer ( 2011 ) conclude that when ranking countries by HDI, 34 percent of them are misclassified due to data errors. Importantly, in their analysis of the economic component, GNI per capita (PPP$) has the highest measurement error, while life expectancy is the most precise among the three components. It is not surprising that GNI per capita has the highest measurement error. Because of technical considerations, GNI per capita must be calculated for all countries at the same time. Because the collection of comparable prices for nearly 200 countries is costly and the methodology of combining all those data is complex and based on many subjective assumptions, the computation of GNI per capita is done only periodically.

In particular, the last round of GNI per capita (PPP$) computation was based on 2011 prices and was released in 2014. The previous round was based on 2005 prices. Between benchmark years GNI per capita is extrapolated. When the 2011 data were released it was found that the data extrapolated from the 2005 benchmark differed significantly from what was observed based on the 2011 benchmark. Deaton and Aten ( 2017 ) argue that some of that difference was due to methodological errors in the 2005 benchmark data. Any random variability or methodological errors in the benchmark data then are propagated through extrapolation until the next benchmarks are released. GNI per capita based on the 2011 methodology assessed incomes across the world's countries as being considerably more equal than when those figures were computed based on the 2005 methodology.

Structural changes in the goalpost values and the functional form of the index

During the past decade, the details of how the HDI is computed have frequently changed.

These changes ultimately reflect the lack of consensus on the relative importance of the factors influencing human development. For example, it is not clear whether in calculating human development, the geometric or arithmetic average of the mean and expected years of schooling should be used. In assessing human development, there is no benefit for having a GNI per capita above $75,000 (the actual goalpost for income in the 2016 HDI). Instead of $75,000 could that income level be $85,000, or $65,000? This lack of consensus suggests the possibility that the methodology of the HDI will continue to be contested and that changes will continue to be made.

A historical series of HDIs can be produced holding the functional form of the HDI fixed as well as the goalpost values. However, different historical series result each time the functional form of the HDI or the goalposts are changed. Historical series of HDI values depend on historical series of GNI per capita, and it is not clear how well those data reflect the growth of real GNI per capita using local currency prices. A promising approach to long‐run GNI measurement has recently been suggested by Bolt and colleagues ( 2018 ).

Unexplained trade‐offs in HDI indices

An important technical criticism relates to the implied trade‐offs across the HDI's components, such as the amount of GNI per capita needed to compensate for one year loss of life expectancy. The value of one life year gained in terms of GNI per capita varies across countries and years (according to the different formulas for the HDI). The magnitude of the trade‐offs depends crucially on the formula used to combine the different components, but the value given to one additional year of life in terms of GNI per capita is generally lower the poorer the country (Figure ​ (Figure1 1 ).

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Value of one additional year of life as percent of GNI per capita (VAY), as implied by UNDP ( 2005 , 2010 , 2014 )

NOTES: Value of one additional year of life as a percent of income per capita (VAY). The value of one additional year of life is the reduction in per capita income required to keep the HDI constant when life expectancy at birth is increased by one year. All HDI countries. HDI formulas used in 2005, 2010, and 2014. Horizontal axis: Log of GNI per capita. Lines show polynomial fits. For 2005, the line is horizontal since the VAY is constant at about 0.1. Data are from UNDP ( 2016a ).

This has important policy consequences. Take for example Zimbabwe, the country with the lowest income in 2010. Ravallion ( 2012 ) shows that given the value of the HDI and its components, the country in 2010 would have obtained a higher HDI by implementing a policy that increased income by only 0.52 PPP$ per capita than one that increased life expectancy of one entire year. This implies that if a poor country decided to use the HDI to determine its stage of development, income would count much more than life length. For example, using the methodology of the 2016 Human Development Report, we examine the trade‐offs for four countries, two with relatively high HDI indices (Austria and Italy) and two with relatively low ones (Haiti and Senegal). Changes that would keep the value of the HDI constant include increasing life expectancy at birth in Austria by one year and decreasing Austria's GNI per capita by 9.3 percent. The decreases in GNI per capita that keep HDI constant when life expectancy at birth increases by one year are 8.6 percent for Italy, 6.3 percent for Senegal, and 6.2 percent for Haiti.

Table ​ Table1 1 shows other examples of these trade‐offs. The reductions in GNI per capita that keep the HDI constant when the mean years of schooling are increased by one year are large. In Austria, the reduction is 21.2 percent of GNI per capita. The decrease in GNI per capita in Italy is 20.4 percent, in Senegal 23.3 percent, and in Haiti 18.4 percent. In particular, Senegal had mean years of schooling of 2.8. Its value of the HDI would be the same if it increased it to 3.8 and reduced its GNI by almost one‐quarter. In Austria, a reduction in GNI per capita of 21.2 percent would be counterbalanced by an increase in the mean years of schooling of one year, from 11.3 to 12.3. Are all these country‐specific trade‐off values really meaningful?

Trade‐offs in the HDI, four countries

SOURCE: UNDP 2016b and authors’ calculations.

NOTES: HDI components and changes in them that keep HDI constant. HDI = Human Development Index. LE = Life Expectancy. MYS = Mean Years of Schooling; EYS = Expected Years of Schooling; GNI/POP = Per Capita GNI.

The redundancy of the underlying indices

A further relevant concern is related to the redundancy of HDI components. Life expectancy, GNI, and education are strongly correlated with one other, both empirically and conceptually (McGillivray 1991 ; Ogwang 1994 ; Sen 1998 ; Ogwang and Abdou 2003 ). This is not surprising. People who are more educated tend to be richer and, on average, experience longer life spans. This is known as the “socioeconomic gradient” and represents a very pervasive phenomenon in virtually all societies around the world (Marmot 2005 ). In itself, redundancy does not pose a problem for the reliability of the index. However, it does question the efficiency of the HDI, suggesting that the composite index might not reveal more than its single components. Similar results could then be achieved through a less information‐demanding approach.

Measuring human life and its distribution: The Human Life Indicator

If one takes both history and measurability seriously, the best approach is to “keep it simple,” reducing the redundancies related to a multidimensional index and providing data that can be sufficiently stable as to allow comparisons across time. This is true also for the measurement of human development.

Life expectancy represents a good candidate for this purpose. Since it is one of the three components included in the HDI, this strategy would require dropping education and GNI per capita. This would be problematic only to the extent that relevant information is lost. However, the strong correlation among the components reduces significantly the related information loss.

The use of the sole health component of human development instead of a composite index helps to answer some of the more technical criticisms of the HDI defined above, since:

  • It does not depend on any trade‐off, implying that the economic and schooling components matter only to the extent that they can influence life conditions and mortality. Note that this does not imply that income and education are not important. Rather, an increase in the economic and educational levels of a country should be considered as relevant only when they translate into an improved life‐span for individuals. This view is consistent with the approach to development based on the idea that we should be seeing “incomes and commodities” not as something that “people have reason to value intrinsically,” but rather as “instruments,” i.e., as “means to other ends,” this end being a good and long life (Sen 1998 ). Sen explicitly suggests that mortality should be considered as an indicator of economic success and failure (Sen 1998 ).
  • Its measurement errors are smaller than the ones associated with education and income. The measurement errors for the three indicators of the HDI as reported by Wolff, Chong, and Auffhammer ( 2011 ) show that, although uncertainty exists for all the indicators, life expectancy is the least error‐prone among the three (see Appendix Figure ​ FigureB1 B1 ).
  • It is built on data that are more clearly comparable across countries and times. Mortality data allow researchers to provide a much more consistent picture of development patterns at country levels, both geographically and historically.

Life expectancy at birth is the arithmetic average of ages at death, and like any other arithmetic average it is not influenced by the distribution of ages of death around that average. For example, two countries with the same life expectancy might have very different infant mortality figures, simply because in a country with low infant mortality, adults die earlier (perhaps as a result of genetics). The measure that we propose is a modification of life expectancy that also takes the distribution of ages at death around its average value into account.

If people experience the age‐specific survival rates in a life table, they will die at various ages. The arithmetic mean of their lifespans is life expectancy at birth. Our measure, called the Human Life Indicator (HLI), is the geometric average of those lifetimes:

where a g e i is the age at the lower end of the age interval i in a life table, a i is the average number of years lived in the interval by those who die in the interval, d i is the fraction of deaths in age interval i among all deaths, and N is the number of age intervals in the life table.

The use of the geometric mean penalizes countries that have a relatively high variation in the length of lives. In particular, if two countries had the same life expectancy at birth, the country with the lower infant and child mortality rates would generally have the higher HLI. Infant and child mortality rates are highly correlated with education across countries and time periods, so using the HLI reduces the information lost by not explicitly including education. More generally, the HLI explicitly treats the reduction in the inequality in lifetimes as an additional contributor to the improvement in human development. If everyone in the population lived the same number of years (implying, in particular, a zero child mortality rate), the HLI and the life expectancy at birth would coincide.

Table ​ Table2 2 shows the correlations among the HLI, the HDI, gross national income per capita (GNI per capita), expected years of schooling (EYS), and mean years of schooling (MYS). Although the HLI is much simpler than the HDI, the correlation between the two is 0.93. The observation that the HLI, which is based on a single indicator, is so closely correlated with the HDI reflects the extent of redundancy in the HDI indicators. Table ​ Table2 2 also shows that the HLI is closely correlated to the two schooling variables. The effects of education are reflected in the HLI, even though the schooling variables are not explicitly included in it.

Correlations between HLI and HDI and its components

SOURCE: UNDP 2016b .

NOTES: Correlations between the Human Life Indicator (HLI), the Human Development Index (HDI), Gross National Income per capita (GNI/POP), Expected Years of Schooling (EYS), and Mean Years of Schooling (MYS). Based on all countries in the 2014 Human Development Report.

The geography and history of the HLI across countries

Figure ​ Figure2 2 shows the distribution of the HLI across countries based on 2010–15 UN life tables. In general, countries broadly maintain their development rankings when the measure switches from HDI to HLI (Figure ​ (Figure3). 3 ). Nevertheless, the correlation between HLI and HDI is not perfect and for some countries the changes in the relative position can be substantial. This mainly happens for the (relatively) richer countries, where the high level of income represents the main driver of the good HDI performance. Consider for example Norway, which has been on the top of the HDI ranking for the last two decades. Its high GNI per capita is based, in part, on its extensive North Sea oil and gas deposits. When using the HLI, Norway slips to the ninth position, mainly because its very high levels of GNI per capita have not been translated into correspondingly longer life spans.

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The HLI around the world

SOURCE: UN 2017 .

NOTE: HLI = Human Life Indicator.

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Changes in country rankings from a ranking based on the HDI to a ranking based on the HLI

SOURCES: UNDP 2016b and authors’ calculations.

NOTES: Positive numbers imply improvement in rankings. HDI = Human Development Index. HLI = Human Life Indicator.

One crucial advantage of the HLI is its capacity to provide a measure of human development that can go farther back than 1990. Looking at the series of HLI by countries (Figure ​ (Figure4), 4 ), the impact of relevant historical events, such as, for example, the World Wars for European countries, are evident. The HLI is thus particularly responsive to major macro‐level shocks, a characteristic that is of primary importance for the longitudinal dimension of an index. Regarding the patterns of development, the series show that, with the exception of the Northern European countries, the period between the end of World War II and the 1980s produced the most impressive worldwide increase in human development ever witnessed in human history. This growth slowed down earlier (during the 1960s) only for Russia, which has experienced a stall in the growth of the HLI ever since. Steady growth patterns in the HLI are noticeable in other countries around the world. For example, the HLIs in Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador have all been constantly growing since the 1950s (see Appendix Figures Figures B2 and ​ andB3). B3 ). In Asia, the HLI reflects the impact of some dramatic historic events, such as the Vietnam War and the Pol‐Pot dictatorship in Cambodia.

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HLI for selected countries

SOURCE: UC Berkeley, and Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research 2017 .

HLI in Indian states

HLIs can be calculated whenever life tables are available, including places where suitable data on education and economic output per capita are not available. The study of comparative human development in urban and rural areas is one example of this. Even if life expectancy at birth, the mean years of schooling, the expected years of schooling, and some measure of economic output per capita were available in each area, producing urban and rural HDIs would still be problematic. An area may have relatively high measured output because of mineral production, for example, but the people in the area could be quite poor because they receive little benefit from that production. Regional economic magnitudes that account for price differences can be calculated in a number of ways and the differences could have consequential effects on the HDI values.

In addition, most economic measures only count output that goes through markets. A higher proportion of output in rural areas might be in nonmarketed goods and services. Using flawed economic data could produce regional HDIs, which are misleading for policy purposes.

In this section, we provide an example of how HLIs can be used to quantify regional differences in human development across space and over time. Table ​ Table3 3 shows the HLIs for urban and rural areas of Indian states for which Sample Registration System (SRS) life tables are available for 2007–11, 2011–15, and for the country as a whole.

HLI for Indian states in different years, urban and rural

SOURCE: Government of India 2018 and authors' computations.

NOTES: Human Life Indicator (HLI) in urban areas of states for which Sample Registration System (SRS) life tables are available, 2007–11 and 2011–15. “n.d.” indicates that no data were available to make the calculation of HLI. States are listed in order of their HLIs in 2011–15. Figures are rounded independently.

A full analysis of human development in India based on HLIs is beyond the scope of this article, so we highlight only a few observations from the table. In Table ​ Table3, 3 , the highest HLI values are for Kerala. Besides Kerala's high HLI values, the urban‐rural differences in HLIs are almost nonexistent. The state that had the greatest increases in both urban and rural HLIs between 2007–11 and 2011–15 was Odisha. Although Odisha had a relatively large urban‐rural difference in HLIs in 2007–11, the rapid increases in HLIs were somewhat faster in the urban area, increasing urban‐rural inequality in human development there. It is interesting to compare the experience of Odisha with that of Assam. For India as a whole, the urban‐rural gap in human development, as assessed using HLIs, diminished between 2007–11 and 2011–15. In rural India, the HLI increased by 4.08 in that period while in urban India it increased by 3.66. In Odisha, HLI increases in both the urban and rural areas were faster than those in India as a whole. In Assam, on the other hand, the urban HLI grew faster than the all‐India urban HLI, while the rural HLI grew more slowly than the all‐India rural HLI. Observations such as these can potentially be useful in assessing the sustainable development goal of reducing regional inequalities.

Concluding remarks

No measure of the progress of human development is perfect. Different indices provide different perspectives. The HLI is simpler than the HDI and because of this does not presume contentious trade‐offs between the components of human development. Even though it is simpler, the correlation between the HLI and the HDI is rather high (0.93). The HLI does not explicitly include an economic component. In theory, this is a disadvantage, but in practice, it might not be. GNI per capita measured in purchasing power parity has been subject to large revisions each time new benchmark figures have been published. Moreover, there is a great deal of redundancy in the HDI components, so differences in economic conditions are still reflected in the HLI. The behavior of the HLI in time and space reflects the major economic and political events across the world and provides a credible picture of the evolution of human development in the last century.

Reducing inequality in human development is a sustainable development goal. The HLI can be useful in assessing progress toward that goal for two reasons. First, the HLI takes inequality of lifespans into account. Holding life expectancy at birth constant, areas with less inequality in lifespans have higher HLIs. Second, the HLI can also be used to study inequality in human development across regions of countries where it is difficult or impossible to obtain meaningful and comparable measures of economic conditions. The HDI and the HLI can both be used in policy analyses. One need not be an alternative to the other.


The changing definition of the hdi.


HDI and its components through the years

NOTES: Formulas and parameters are taken from the Human Development Reports of the corresponding years. alr = Adult Literacy Rate; ger = Gross Education Rate; mys = Mean Years of Schooling; eys = Expected Years of Schooling. HDI = Human Development Index. LE = Life Expectancy.


Additional evidence.


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Coefficients of variation of measurement errors of Education, Life Expectancy, and Gross Domestic Product, over HDI

NOTES: Coefficients of variation (CV) for an index for country i: σi/μi, where σ is the standard error of the country‐specific measurement error, and μ is the country‐specific mean. Countries are ordered according to their Human Development Index (HDI). Measurement errors are from Wolff, Chong, and Auffhammer ( 2011 ). The graph shows that measurement errors generally decrease for countries with higher HDI, and that life expectancy is associated with lower measurement errors, especially for high HDI countries.

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HLI in history, African and Latin American countries

NOTES: Authors’ calculations based on UN 2017 . HLI = Human Life Indicator.

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HLI in history, Eastern European and Asian countries

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007‐2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. ERC2012‐AdG 323947‐Re‐Ageing. The underlying data for this study is available at www.iiasa.ac.at/pop/HLI .

1 Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a method of adjusting the relative price levels so that equivalent amounts of currency would be able to buy an equivalent bundle of goods. For example, if, according to PPP calculations, 1 unit of currency in country A was the equivalent of 5 units of currency in country B, then a person with 1 unit of currency in country A and a person with 5 units of currency in country B should be able to buy the same amount of goods.

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Human Development Index — Measurements, changes and evolution

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What Is the Human Development Index (HDI)?

human development index essay

Erika Rasure is globally-recognized as a leading consumer economics subject matter expert, researcher, and educator. She is a financial therapist and transformational coach, with a special interest in helping women learn how to invest.

human development index essay

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic developed and compiled by the United Nations since 1990 to measure various countries’ levels of social and economic development. It is composed of four principal areas of interest: mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, life expectancy at birth, and gross national income (GNI) per capita.

This index is a tool used to follow changes in development levels over time and compare the development levels of different countries.

Key Takeaways

  • The Human Development Index (HDI) is a measurement system used by the United Nations to evaluate the level of individual human development in each country.
  • It was introduced by the U.N. in 1990.
  • The HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.
  • The HDI uses components such as average annual income and educational expectations to rank and compare countries.
  • The HDI has been criticized by social advocates for not representing a broad-enough measure of quality of life and by economists for providing little additional useful information beyond simpler measures of the economic standard of living.

Investopedia / Jake Shi

Understanding the Human Development Index (HDI)

The HDI was established to place emphasis on individuals—or, more precisely, on their opportunities to realize satisfying work and lives. Evaluating a country’s potential for individual human development provides a supplementary metric for evaluating a country’s level of development besides considering standard economic growth statistics, such as gross domestic product (GDP).

This index also can be used to examine the various policy choices of nations; if, for example, two countries have approximately the same GNI per capita , then the HDI can help to evaluate why they produce widely disparate human development outcomes. Proponents of the HDI hope it can be used to stimulate such productive public policy debate.

The HDI is a summary measurement of basic achievement levels in human development. The computed HDI of a country is an average of indexes of each of the life aspects that are examined: knowledge and understanding, a long and healthy life, and an acceptable standard of living . Each of the components is normalized to scale between 0 and 1, and then the geometric mean of the three components is calculated.

  • The health aspect of the HDI is measured by the life expectancy, as calculated at the time of birth, in each country, and normalized so that this component is equal to 0 when life expectancy is 20 and equal to 1 when life expectancy is 85.
  • Education is measured on two levels: the mean years of schooling for residents of a country, and the expected years of schooling that a child has at the average age for starting school. These are each separately normalized so that both 15 mean years of schooling and 18 years of expected schooling equal 1, and a simple mean of the two is calculated.
  • The economic metric chosen to represent the standard of living is GNI per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) , a common metric used to reflect average income. The standard of living is normalized so that it is equal to 1 when GNI per capita is $75,000 and equal to 0 when GNI per capita is $100.

The final HDI score for each country is calculated as a geometric mean of the three components by taking the cube root of the product of the normalized component scores.

Switzerland scores the highest among 191 nations in the most recent HDI rankings from the U.N.

Top HDI scores go heavily to Northern European countries, while the lowest-scoring nations are largely found on the African continent.

The top 25 countries in the latest HDI rankings as of February 2024 are in the table below.

The bottom five countries as of February 2024 are in the table below.

Limitations of the HDI

There are criticisms of the HDI . It is a simplification and an admittedly limited evaluation of human development. The HDI does not specifically reflect quality-of-life factors, such as empowerment movements or overall feelings of security. In recognition of these facts, the U.N. Human Development Report Office (HDRO) provides additional composite indices to evaluate other life aspects, including inequality issues such as gender disparity or racial inequality.

Examination and evaluation of a country’s HDI are best done in concert with examining these and other factors, such as the country’s rate of economic growth, expansion of employment opportunities, and the success of initiatives undertaken to improve the overall quality of life within a country.

Several economists say the HDI is essentially redundant as a result of the high correlations among the HDI, its components, and simpler measures of income per capita. GNI per capita (or even GDP per capita) correlates very highly with both the overall HDI and the other two components in both values and rankings. Given these strong and consistent correlations, they say, it would be simpler and clearer to just compare per-capita GNI across countries than to spend time and resources collecting data for the additional components that provide little or no additional information for the overall index.

Indeed, a fundamental principle of the composite index design is to not include multiple additional components that are strongly correlated in a way that suggests that they might reflect the same underlying phenomenon. This is to prevent inefficient double counting and avoid introducing additional sources of potential errors in the data.

In the case of the HDI, the inclusion of the components is problematic because it is easily plausible that higher average incomes directly lead to both more investment in formal education and better health and longevity. Moreover, definitions and measurement of years of schooling and life expectancy can vary widely from country to country.

What Are the Indicators Used in the Human Development Index (HDI)?

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures each country’s social and economic development by focusing on the following four factors: mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, life expectancy at birth, and gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Is a High HDI Good or Bad?

The higher the HDI, the better. A high HDI essentially means that the country in question offers a generally high standard of living, with decent healthcare, education, and opportunities to earn money.

Which Countries Have the Highest HDI?

As of February 2024, Switzerland finished first with an HDI value of 0.962. Norway, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Australia rounded out the top five. Meanwhile, the United States was ranked just 21st with an HDI value of 0.921.

The United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI) seeks to quantify a country's level of prosperity based on both economic and non-economic factors. Non-economic factors include life expectancy, and educational attainment. Economic factors are measured by gross national income (GNI) per-capita. While the U.N. argues that the HDI improves our understanding of relative well-being around the world, economists have criticized the index as overly simplistic and flawed in its methodology.

Dag Hammarskjöld Library. " UN Documentation: Development ."

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. " Human Development Index (HDI) ."

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. “ Human Development Index (HDI) .”

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. “ Technical Notes: Calculating the Human Development Indices—Graphical Presentation .” Pages 2–3.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. “ Technical Notes: Calculating the Human Development Indices—Graphical Presentation .” Page 2.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. “ Technical Notes: Calculating the Human Development Indices—Graphical Presentation .” Pages 2-3.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports. “ Human Development Insights .”

Cahill, Miles B. “ Is the Human Development Index Redundant? ,” Eastern Economic Journal , vol. 31, no. 1, Winter 2005, Pages 1–5.

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human development index essay

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Essay on Human Development

Students are often asked to write an essay on Human Development in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Human Development

The concept of human development.

Human development is a process of enlarging people’s freedoms and improving their well-being. It involves increasing the choices and opportunities for all people.

Dimensions of Human Development

There are three main dimensions: health, education, and living standards. Health is measured by life expectancy, education by years of schooling, and living standards by income.

The Importance of Human Development

Human development is crucial. It helps societies to progress, reduces poverty, and promotes equality. It’s a way to help everyone live a productive and fulfilling life.

Challenges in Human Development

Despite its importance, many challenges exist, like inequality, environmental degradation, and political instability. Overcoming these challenges is vital for sustainable human development.

250 Words Essay on Human Development


Human development, a multidimensional concept, is a process of enlarging people’s freedoms and improving their well-being. It encompasses the enhancement of both individual potential and societal growth, focusing on aspects such as education, health, standard of living, and participation in societal activities.

Theoretical Framework

The Human Development Index (HDI), introduced by the United Nations Development Programme, quantifies human development. It emphasizes three fundamental dimensions: knowledge, longevity, and decent standard of living. However, human development is not merely a function of these quantifiable elements; it also involves intangible aspects such as freedom, dignity, and autonomy.

Role of Education

Education plays a central role in human development. It equips individuals with knowledge and skills, empowering them to contribute to societal progress. Education fosters creativity and innovation, driving technological advancements and economic growth.

Health and Living Standards

Health is another crucial component. A healthy population is more productive, contributing to economic growth and societal development. Additionally, a decent standard of living, characterized by access to basic needs and services, is vital for human development.

Societal Participation

Active societal participation promotes inclusivity and equality, essential elements of human development. It enables individuals to contribute to and benefit from societal progress, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual respect.

In conclusion, human development is a comprehensive and nuanced concept. It encompasses not only economic growth but also aspects such as education, health, living standards, and societal participation. It is about creating an environment where individuals can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests.

500 Words Essay on Human Development

Human development is an intricate interplay of biological, psychological, and sociocultural processes that begin at conception and continue throughout the lifespan. It encompasses the growth and maturation of the human being, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes.

The Biological Perspective

From the biological standpoint, human development begins with genetics. Our genetic makeup, coupled with environmental influences, guides our physical growth and maturation. This includes the development of the brain, motor skills, and health. Understanding the biological aspects of human development allows us to grasp why we are the way we are, and how our physical attributes and health conditions may influence our life experiences.

The Psychological Perspective

The psychological perspective focuses on the development of mental processes, behaviors, and emotions. Cognitive development theory, proposed by Jean Piaget, suggests that individuals pass through different stages of cognitive growth as they mature. This theory underscores the importance of experiences and interactions in shaping our cognitive abilities, personality, and emotional well-being.

The Sociocultural Perspective

The sociocultural perspective emphasizes the impact of social and cultural factors on human development. According to Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, our cognitive development is heavily influenced by our social interactions and cultural context. This perspective highlights the importance of understanding the cultural and social norms, values, and expectations that shape our behaviors and identities.

Interplay of Factors

It is important to recognize that these perspectives do not exist in isolation. They interact in complex ways to shape human development. For instance, our biological makeup may influence our cognitive abilities, which in turn can be shaped by our sociocultural environment. Similarly, our sociocultural context may impact our physical health through factors such as diet, lifestyle, and access to healthcare.

Human Development Index

To measure human development, the United Nations uses the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a decent standard of living. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare.

In conclusion, human development is a multifaceted process influenced by biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. It is a continuous journey that shapes our physical attributes, cognitive abilities, emotional well-being, and social interactions. Understanding these factors and their interplay can provide valuable insights into human behavior and well-being, and guide efforts to promote healthy development and improve quality of life. The HDI, while not perfect, gives us a tool to measure and compare human development across different contexts.

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Analysis of the different measures of development on the example of the u.s. and egypt.

In our pursuit to understanding the dynamics of our world, development and food production have become increasingly prevalent topics of discussion. Development, a process that creates growth and progress, is measured using Gross National Income (GNI), the Human Development Index (HDI), and the Sustainable Development...

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Comparison of the Human Wellbeing in China and Australia

Human Wellbeing refers to the aspect and growth experienced by people as entities and as an association. The World Health Organisation (WHO) outlined the condition of life as an associate with a quote “individual’s impression of their situation in the activity within the situation of...

The Relation Between the Mortality Rate, Pib Per Capita and Human Development Index

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The Meaning and Essence of the Human Development Index

People experience plenty of changes over the period of their lives. So what is the meaning of human development? The definition of human development is the process of expansion of human’s potential, an increase of choices and opportunities and fulfillment of human rights. According to...

Human Development Index: Personality and Ability

There are many unique pieces of human development on the planet. The human developmental process begins with the union of egg and sperm at conception. (James S Naiene,2009, p. 92) A fertilized egg it contains hereditary material pressed into chromosomes got from their parent. They...

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5. Human Development Index: Personality and Ability

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Human development index

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a measure of economic development and economic welfare. The Human Development Index examines three important criteria of economic development (life expectancy, education and income levels) and uses this to create an overall score between 0 and 1.

  • 1 indicates a high level of economic development,
  • 0 a very low level.

The HDI combines :

  • Life Expectancy Index. Average life expectancy compared to a global expected life expectancy.
  • mean years of schooling
  • expected years of schooling
  • Income Index (GNI at PPP)

Components of the Human Development Index


What the HDI shows

  • The HDI gives an overall index of economic development. It has some limitations and excludes several factors that might have been included, but it does give a rough ability to make comparisons on issues of economic welfare – much more than just using GDP statistics show.

Limitations of Human Development Index

  • Wide divergence within countries. For example, countries like China and Kenya have widely different HDI scores depending on the region in question. (e.g. north China poorer than south-east)
  • HDI reflects long-term changes (e.g. life expectancy) and may not respond to recent short-term changes.
  • Higher national wealth does not indicate welfare. GNI may not necessarily increase economic welfare; it depends on how it is spent. For example, if a country spends more on military spending – this is reflected in higher GNI, but welfare could actually be lower.
  • Also, higher GNI per capita may hide widespread inequality within a country. Some countries with higher real GNI per capita have high levels of inequality (e.g. Russia, Saudi Arabia)
  • However, HDI can highlight countries with similar GNI per capita but different levels of economic development.
  • Economic welfare depends on several other factors, such as – threat of war, levels of pollution, access to clean drinking water e.t.c.

Top 10 Human Development Index


Components of HDI score 2011

Lowest 10 Counties for HDI

Before 2011, the human development index used adult literacy rates rather than mean years of schooling.

The human development index was created by Mahbub ul Haq, and Amartya Sen.

  • HDI at United Nations
  • Measuring living standards

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88 Human Development Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best human development topic ideas & essay examples, 👍 good essay topics on human development, ❓ essay questions about human development.

  • Human Development Index: Limitations and Benefits The development of education in the country is based on the mean of years among adults aged 25 years and the expected schooling duration of children at the time of schooling age.
  • Human Development: Nature or Nurture? With studies and theories carried out to examine the impact of nature on the personal development and personality traits, heredity is an important factor in the development. We will write a custom essay specifically for you by our professional experts 808 writers online Learn More
  • Theories of Human Development Essay The ability of a child to act on the effects of his/her surrounding has significant implications on other aspects of development, and each and every accomplishment enhances the child’s level of independence.
  • Human development index It is important to note that the origin and development of the human development index is closely linked to the United Nations, to be more precise, to the United Nations Development Program’s annual development reports.
  • Erikson’s Theory of Human Development and Its Impact on My Life The criticism and the thin skin aspects became evident to me in my adolescence when I was looking for an explanation of my issues with establishing social relationships.
  • Human Development and Groundwater Sustainability The experiment aims to address the impact of human development on the sustainability of groundwater. This aggregation of waste to the landfill is a threat to groundwater and the environment.
  • Human Development Theories: Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget Much attention should be paid to the way in which these psychologists explain the role of culture that includes a set of values, beliefs, and attitudes that shape the behavior of an individual.
  • Friendships in Human Development In this stage, positive interactions and mutual activities no longer serve as an excuse for betrayed trust and a lack of dependability, and children begin to understand the role of apologies in reestablishing friendships.
  • The Effect of Emotions and Desires on Individual Development As a result, the urges and the desires are forced into the unconscious mind in order to stop any damage of the individual.
  • Technology and Human Development This paper discusses video games as learning tools to highlight the kind of knowledge that they present to learners and their effectiveness in enabling people to acquire the knowledge.
  • Human Development in the Elderly Phase Therefore, the elderly are in need of a sense of love and belonging from their friends and family members. The community and the church have a role in providing older adults with avenues to meet […]
  • Learning and Cognition: The Purpose of Human Development Visual learning is a type of learning that involves the use images to pass on information and ideas to the learner.
  • Cognitive Growth Stages: Piaget & Freud The pre-operational stage: At the pre-operational stage, the child learns to exercise language and to characterize things by words and images. At this stage of development, the anus acts as the centre of attraction of […]
  • Aspects of Human Development Stages These are the people in her immediate surroundings, and she can impact their impressions of her. Since she has confidence in her ability to be independent, she is unafraid and confident.
  • Auditory and Vestibular Systems in Human Development A specific feature of the vestibular system is that a significant part of the sensory information processed in it is used for the automatic regulation of functions performed without conscious control.
  • Aspects of Lifespan Human Development Thus, I decided not to stop there and continue to build my life in a way that would make my grandmother proud of me.
  • New Theories of Human Development At the beginning of the course, it seemed quite natural to measure development by a degree of rational thinking and independent analysis. Overall, the hierarchical model seems to be largely irrelevant in the context of […]
  • The “Human Development and Faith” Book by Kelcourse The authors who provided their essays to this editor also have a religious or psychology work background.”Human Development and Faith” by Kelcourse help one explore the context of human development, the specifics of each stage […]
  • Faith and Other Areas of Human Development From my point of view, there is undoubtedly a certain kind of connection between the development of faith and other areas of human development.
  • Human Development in Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Indeed, information from a mental status exam can be combined with that of family and individual historical background help in the establishment of timely assistance to be accorded to the patient.
  • Discussion of Human Development Human development refers to individuals’ social, psychological, physical, and cognitive development throughout their lifespan, from prenatal development to late adulthood. Physical development includes growth in motor skills and brain, body, sense, and health development.
  • The Relationship Between Human Development Index and Socio-Economic Variables The HDI is derived from or directly linked to the life expectancy of people and the gross national income of the county’s population.
  • The Human Development and Political Indexes The Brand Development Index for this product can be calculated by dividing the number of brand sales by that of households in countries A and B.
  • Jigsaw Model: Human Development and Learning The steps of jigsaw include; The teacher creating groups and giving an assignment on the following topic; salt marshes Each learner should get a sub-topic on the salt marshes.
  • Human Development: A Life-Span Approach The motor activities of a child also represent his mental growth and development. The other important element to know is the factors affecting the development- the environment of the child.
  • Elementary Education, Human Development and Learning In a classroom environment, it is normally important that the teacher helps the learners to develop high self esteem. The introduction of competition in the groups is a motivating factor that will boost the learners’ […]
  • “Eight Stages of Human Development” by Erik Erikson This is important because it helps the child to develop essential skills of the will. It is not surprising therefore that the crucial relationship at this stage is with buddies and marital partners.
  • Erik Erikson Human Development Theory Eriksson’s concept is simple and neat, however, it is very sophisticated, and the concept is a base for extensive or complex discussion and examination of personality and behavior. This is the infant stage; the infant […]
  • Human Development and Issues in Clinical Practice At the same time, Ego views it as a matter of consideration for the social worker only as of the one who is interested in the efficiency of his work and fulfills all the ethical […]
  • Human Development: Term Definition According to Kohlberg’s gender identity development theory, “young children learn to understand about their gender and the meaning of being that gender in their each and everyday life”.
  • Social-Emotional Learning in Human Development This paper analyzes the skills, or personal capabilities, that contribute to positive social development in children, addressing the school and the family environment qualities that encourage or inhibit this development. A Teacher’s Use of the […]
  • Human Development In Different Ways Using Theories He is the one who has sent us in this world to live and to do various types of activities so that we can understand that what actually life means. And the answer is that […]
  • The Psychological Aspects of Human Development Despite the possibility of analyzing human aggression in the context of several areas of psychology, the social sphere is the most suitable for integrated assessment and work.
  • Human Development in the Ecological Context Though I spent the most of my life in boarding schools, my caregivers provided me with the required portion of support and understanding.
  • Nature vs. Nurture Factors of Human Development Advocates of the nurture concept believe strongly that the natural environment reshapes the behaviors of many people. That being the case, people should consider the role played by the environment towards reshaping their experiences and […]
  • Wellbeing and Human Development While assessing the wellbeing of people in a country, a person should look at a series of indicators that can throw light on the degree of human development in a certain region or state.
  • Social Psychology Role: Self-Esteem and Human Development The relation between the concepts and the response is closely analyzed to determine the most important criteria people’s actions can be judged by. A person is stereotyped and the thinking leads to over-generalize towards others.
  • Human Development Theories: Adolescence and Adulthood In the growth and development stage of a human being, the adolescent period has been considered to be a natural stage found between childhood and adulthood.
  • Measuring Economic Development: Human Development Index This paper discusses the economic development of China and India on the basis of the Human Development Index. The purpose of this paper is to compare the economic development of India and China.
  • Freud’s Theory as to Human Development In the beginning, a person is driven primarily by the id or the part of the psyche that focuses on instinctive needs and desires.
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What is Human Development?

While the expression “human development” is widely used, it is understood in different ways around..

human development index essay

HDRO Outreach

2015 marks 25 years since the first Human Development Report introduced a new approach for advancing human flourishing. And while the expression “human development” is widely used, it is understood in different ways around the world. So on the occasion of the 25th anniversary year of human development reporting, we’d like to highlight how the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) presents human development.

Credit: UNDP Kosovo’s animation "What is Human Development?" explains and promotes sustainable human development.

Human development grew out of global discussions on the links between economic growth and development during the second half of the 20th Century. By the early 1960s there were increasingly loud calls to “dethrone” GDP: economic growth had emerged as both a leading objective, and indicator, of national progress in many countries i , even though GDP was never intended to be used as a measure of wellbeing ii . In the 1970s and 80s development debate considered using alternative focuses to go beyond GDP, including putting greater emphasis on employment, followed by redistribution with growth, and then whether people had their basic needs met.

These ideas helped pave the way for the human development approach, which is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It is an approach that is focused on creating fair opportunities and choices for all people. So how do these ideas come together in the human development approach?

  • People: the human development approach focuses on improving the lives people lead rather than assuming that economic growth will lead, automatically, to greater opportunities for all. Income growth is an important means to development, rather than an end in itself.

human development index essay

  • Choices: human development is, fundamentally, about more choice. It is about providing people with opportunities, not insisting that they make use of them. No one can guarantee human happiness, and the choices people make are their own concern. The process of development – human development - should at least create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.

The human development approach, developed by the economist Mahbub Ul Haq, is anchored in Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in life iii . Examples include

Beings: well fed, sheltered, healthy

Doings: work, education, voting, participating in community life.

Freedom of choice is central: someone choosing to be hungry (during a religious fast say) is quite different to someone who is hungry because they cannot afford to buy food.

As the international community seeks to define a new development agenda post-2015, the human development approach remains useful to articulating the objectives of development and improving people’s well-being by ensuring an equitable, sustainable and stable planet.

i Kennedy, Robert. (1968). Address to the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas on March 18, 1968. www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27718.htm ii Simon Kuznets, who created GDP, warned expressly against using it as a measure of wellbeing. Kuznets, Simon. “National Income, 1929–1932.” U.S. Congress, Senate Doc. No. 124–73, at 7 (1934) iii Professor Sen was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in welfare economics.

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Short essay on human development index (hdi).

human development index essay


In 1990s Human Development has emerged as an important concept of development. Human Development means enlargement of human capabilities to enjoy all types of freedom – economic, political, social and cultural.


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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an agency of UNO, has constructed various indicators of human development such as Human Development Index (HD1), Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and Human Poverty Index (HPI). The most important and most popular of these is HDI.

HDI is basically a composite index of three attainments of development: health, education and standard of living. For health, life expectancy at birth is taken as an indicator; for education, adult literacy and enrolment ratio are taken into consideration while Per Capita GDP at PPP is taken as an indicator of standard of living.

As in the case of PQLI, first minimum and maximum values of the three attainments are determined. For Education Attainment Index (EA1), two-third weight is given to Adult Literacy Rate (ALR) and one-third weight is assigned to Combined Enrolment Ratio (CER). Therefore, educational index may be given as:

Average of the three attainment indices is calculated to give HDI. Value of HDI varies between 0 to 1.

The UNDP publishes Human Development Report (HDR) annually. HDR is like a ‘report card’ of each country in the field of human development. HDR ranks countries on the basis of value of HDI. It classifies countries into following three categories:

(i) High human development countries (HDI value between 1 – 0.8)

(ii) Medium human development countries (HDI value between 0.79 – 0.5)

(iii) Low human development countries (HDI value between 0.49 – 0)

Harlier India was among low human development countries but now it has made a place in medium human development countries.

Related Articles:

  • Highlights of the National Human Development Report (NHDR)
  • Human Development Index (HDI) of India

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  • Human Development Index


Human Development Index Introduction

Human Development Index (HDI) is a tool to measure a country's development based upon its economic and social measurements. The tool was developed to lay down the fact that a country's overall development is not only assessed based on its economic growth but also assessed based on its people and their capabilities.

Both social and economic dimensions of a country consider the health of the people, their education capabilities, their standard of living, and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

Human Development Index is calculated through the normal indices of each of the above three factors. Human Development Index is the mean of these indices. HDI is also used to question a country’s national policy and compare the countries with similar GNI per capita to question why the human development of these countries are different despite having similar Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

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What Is the Human Development Index?

Human Development Index or HDI integrates the significant social and economic aspects of a country to assess the overall development of a country. HDI generally uses the three dimensions of the development of a country's population that include their education, their standard of living, and the health of the people based on which country’s development is assessed.

In the year 1990, the human development index was first used by the Pakistani Economist Mahbub Ul Haq. The index is further used by the United Nation Development Program to rank countries and is considered as one of the best tools to assess the country’s development on the basis of its economic and social measurements.

Indicators of the Human Development Index

The three indicators or factors that represent the different aspects of life include the following:

Longevity: The human’s longevity is measured by life expectancy at birth. The life expectancy at birth means how many years a newly born person is expected to survive in this world. This indicated the element of health in the Human Development Index. 

Education: It is measured by the expected years of schooling life of a child at the school entry age and the mean years of schooling of the adult population.

Mean years of schooling: 

It determines the average number of years of total schooling adults (aged 25 years and above) have received. 

Expected Years of Schooling:

It estimates the number of years of schooling that a child of school entrance age can expect to get if the present age- specific enrollment rates survive through the child's life by country.

Standard of Living: The standard of living of people is measured by Gross National Income per capita adjusted for the price level of the country.

Importance of Human Development Index

The importance of the human development index is that it is an essential indicator of the overall socio-economic conditions of a nation and its residents. Since it takes into account various parameters to determine the development of those areas, it is an effective way to evaluate the performance of every nation.

Consequently, after the survey, every country is awarded a rank by the United Nations Development Programme annually. A higher rank is allocated to the one that has performed well in all or most of the parameters. Likewise, nations that have not fared well in all or most of the parameters attain a lower rank. As a result, HDI acts as a measuring tool that helps in gauging socio-economic conditions of nations every year and also keeps track of the same.

What Are The Consequences And Implications of the Human Development Index?

The HDI is used to show the attention of policy-makers, the media, and non-governmental organizations, and to change the approach from general economic statistics to human outcomes. It was launched to re-estate that people and their proficiency should be the ultimate guidelines for determining the country's development, not economic growth.

The Human Development Index is also used to diagnose  the alternatives of national policy and to find out how two countries with the similar level of income per person can have different human development outcomes. For example, two different countries may have similar incomes per person but have different life expectancy and literacy levels, such that one of the countries has a much higher HDI than the other. These dissimilarities encourage debate on government policies concerning health and education to determine what can be attained in one country is beyond the reach of the other country.

The HDI is also used to represent the discrepancy within countries, across genders, between states or provinces, across ethnicities, and other socioeconomic groupings. Promoting contradictions in such a way has raised the national debate in many countries.

Limitations of the Human Development Index

Despite the communist idea behind the concept of the human development index, the statistical measure is largely simplified. The present version of the HDI calculation considers only a few factors that affect the development of a country.

To come up with a more accurate analysis of a country's development, other factors such as employment opportunities, empowerment movement, and feeling of security should be considered in index calculations.


FAQs on Human Development Index

1. What does the Human Development Index represent?

The Human Development Index represents the overall index of a country's development. It has some limitations as it ignores several factors that should be considered, but it does give a rough estimation to make comparisons on issues of economic welfare- much more than just GDP statistics represents.

2. Where does the data for the HDI come from?

The data for Life expectancy at birth is provided by the UN Department of Economic and Social Welfare.

The data for mean schooling is provided by Barro and Lee (2010).

The data for expected years of schooling is provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

The data for GNI per capita is provided by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

For a few countries, mean years of schooling are evaluated from nationally representative household surveys, and GNI was evaluated from the UN SNA Main Aggregates database.

3. What are the different criteria for the countries to be included in HDI?

The Human Development Report Office desires to incorporate as many UN member countries as possible in the HDI. To incorporate any country in the Human Development Index, the immediate, precise, and similar information for all three measurements or dimensions of the Index is required. For a country to be included in the Human Development Index, the statistics should preferably be available from the relevant international data agencies

4. What is the Human development index?

The human development index defines that it is an indication of the overall social and economic well being of a country's population. It takes  into  account multiple parameters that help in deciding  which nation is doing well in terms of providing all necessary facilities and to its citizens

5. What is the Importance of the Human Development Index?

It is an indicator of the potential that a country has in terms of providing its citizens with the essential facilities for an enhanced standard of living. So, in case a nation ranks lower, it will know which areas are to be developed for further improvement in living standards of its people.

6. What are the Indicators of Human Development?

The human development index parameters are life expectancy, years of schooling, infant mortality rate, maternity mortality rate, people below the poverty line, and per capita income.

Essay on Human Development | Economics

human development index essay

Here is an essay on ‘Human Development’ for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Human Development’ especially written for school and college students.

Human development is an area in which much international attention has been directed. Human development includes many concepts; initially four such concepts were seen as ‘essential components’ of human development programme (HDP) (UNDP 1995).

These were:

(i) Productivity,


(ii) Equity,

(iii) Sustainability,

(iv) Empowerment.

Later the concepts of:

(v) Cooperation and

(vi) Security were also included in the HDP.

Productivity implies the enhancement of people’s capacity to produce and their full, better and enabled participation in the process of income generation and remunerative employment. Equity is providing accessible equal opportunities by effectively eliminating all barriers to economic and political participation; sustainability ensures that all forms of capital—physical, human and environmental—should be replenished. Empowerment means that development for the people is brought about by the people, i.e., participatory development.

Cooperation demonstrates the concerns with people as individuals and their interaction within the community. The idea of co-operation also includes the idea of ‘social capital’; security encompasses freedom from threats, repression, hurtful disruption in daily life, unemployment, food security, and also economic security.

The concept of human development is defined as enhancement of people’s capabilities, choices and contributions. The term ‘enhancement’ implies that human development is a dynamic, evolutionary and continuous process. By ‘contribution’ we mean the necessary participatory harmonic relation between the individual and the community—be it local, national—or humanity at large.

Human development is also largely dependent on the freedom to make choices—be it economic, political, associational, residential or habitual in nature, freedom from hunger, fear, unemployment, exclusion, discrimination and persecution. The term ‘capability’ comprises all aspects of human, physical, intellectual and social endowments.

It includes a variety of needs which need to be fulfilled in order to enhance a person’s capacities and abilities such as good health, nutritious food, functional (purposive) education, convenient housing, clean environment, safe neighbourhood, etc.

HDP addresses the functional relations between its three components — capabilities, choices, and contribution. Enhancement should take place on all three planes simultaneously; the first two capabilities and choices are centred largely around the individual, whereas ‘contribution’ is the bond between the individual and the society.

Each of these three components of the HDP has both intrinsic and instrumental values. Between them the three accommodate the most—if not all—important concepts of human development. Capabilities and choices would very well suggest empowerment, productivity, security and equity, and contribution indicates cooperation, participation and sustainability.

The ‘capability approach’ introduced by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen describes welfare in terms of capability to function. It states that whether a person or community is poor or non- poor depends on his capability to function in the community.

The HDP is also based on ideas of co-operation and participation of individuals in community life, and the freedom to make choices. Sen explains that the nature of development can be assessed by the degree of freedom of choice that people enjoy in a community.

Amartya Sen states in his theory of entitlements that poverty is not just a matter of being poor but of lacking certain minimum capabilities. Sen has also maintained that the deficiency of traditional economics is that it concentrates on the national product, aggregate income and total supply of goods, rather than the entitlements of the people and the capabilities that these generate.

Entitlement refers to the set of alternative commodities that a person can command in a society using all the rights and obligations that he faces. For example, an illiterate person might feel happy if he possesses a book, but the book is of little use to him. The concept of human well-being in general and poverty in particular revolves around not the availability of commodities, but ‘functioning’, that is, what a person does with the commodities he possesses.

Sen identifies five sources of disparity between real incomes and actual advantages:

(i) Personal heterogametic, such as those connected with disability, illness, age or gender.

(ii) Environmental diversities e.g. impact of pollution.

(iii) Variations in social climate and social capital.

(iv) Differences in relational perspectives.

(v) Distribution within the family.

Sen makes it clear that the feeling of goodness does not change the objective reality of deprivation. Thus we see that Sen’s capability approach is an inaugural part of the HDP, and it goes a long way in explaining why growth without development is harmful for societies.

The UNDP defines human development as ‘a process of enlarging people’s choices’. This depends not only on income but also on other social indicators such as life expectancy, education and health provision. The UNDP introduced Human Development Index (HDI) in 1990 in its first annual Human Development Report.

The HDI does not depend solely upon per capita GNP as an indicator of human development. It combines a measure of PCI with life expectancy and literacy rate. The HDI is not the first index that has tried to put various socio­economic indicators. A forerunner is Morris’ ‘Physical Quality of life Index’ which came in 1979.

It was a composite of three indicators of development:

(i) Infant mortality,

(ii) Literacy, and

(iii) Life expectancy conditional on reaching the age of one.

A country’s performance in term, if income per capita might be significantly different from that measured in terms of these basic indicators. Some countries, comfortably placed in the ‘middle income’ bracket, nevertheless display literacy rates that barely exceed 50%, infant mortality rates close to 100 death per 1000 babies, and undernourishment among a significant proportion of the population. On the contrary, there are instances of countries with low and modestly growing incomes that have shown dramatic improvements in these basic indicators.

HDI is the weighted average of three indicators of development:

(i) Life expectancy at birth, which also indirectly reflects infant and child mortality rates;

(ii) Educational attainment of the society, measured by a combination of adult literacy [(2/30) rd weight] and enrolment rates at primary, secondary and tertiary education [(1/3) rd weight]; and

(iii) Per capita income at real GDP per capita.

To construct the index, first a deprivation index is constructed for each of the three indicators. It is constructed by taking the difference between the maximum value of index, minus the actual value of the index, divided by the difference between the maximum and minimum values of the index

human development index essay


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    The human development approach, developed by the economist Mahbub Ul Haq, is anchored in Amartya Sen's work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to "be" and "do" desirable things in life iii. Examples include. Beings: well fed, sheltered, healthy. Doings: work, education, voting, participating in ...

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    The HDI are able to secure basic human needs. It is a measure of a country's average achievements in the areas of health, knowledge and standard of living (Barmettler & Beglinger 2008). It is a more comprehensive indicator of well-being, taking into account, not only average consumption but also distribution and environmental degradation.

  22. Short Essay on Human Development Index (HDI)

    ADVERTISEMENTS: In 1990s Human Development has emerged as an important concept of development. Human Development means enlargement of human capabilities to enjoy all types of freedom - economic, political, social and cultural. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an agency of UNO, has constructed various indicators of human development such as Human Development Index (HD1), […]

  23. Human Development Index

    The importance of the human development index is that it is an essential indicator of the overall socio-economic conditions of a nation and its residents. Since it takes into account various parameters to determine the development of those areas, it is an effective way to evaluate the performance of every nation.

  24. Essay on Human Development

    The UNDP defines human development as 'a process of enlarging people's choices'. This depends not only on income but also on other social indicators such as life expectancy, education and health provision. The UNDP introduced Human Development Index (HDI) in 1990 in its first annual Human Development Report.

  25. Importance of Human Development Index: Argumentative Essay

    The Human Development Index is very helpful to today's modern society because it directly shows the quality of living in certain countries. Once again the three factors that the Human Development Index is measured in are life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, and gross national income (GIN) per capita.