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The Subnational Human Development Index: Moving beyond country-level averages

Date of news: 31 May 2018

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living. Published most years since 1990, the HDI has become UNDP’s flagship indicator and is now one of the reference indicators to assess countries’ socio-economic development.

Despite its global success, it has received some criticism regarding distributional issues. How can a single number faithfully represent the distribution of education, health and living standards among vast countries with millions of inhabitants? Empirical evidence suggests that there are substantial differences in these three dimensions not only across countries, but also within them. Indeed, the United Nations have included the ‘reduction of inequalities between and within countries’ as one of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the global development agenda.

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