In 1990, the United Nations (UN) introduced a new measurement of human development per country that included a wide range of factors such as health data, quality of life, average life expectancy and quality of education.
Previously, it was assumed that the greatest measure of a country’s progress was its economic growth, but the UN realized that economic growth alone told only a fraction of the whole story regarding a nation’s development.
In response to this problem, the UN created the Human Development Index (HDI) to assess living standards. But the HDI is not a perfect measurement for human development, and there is much room for error in its many components.
To resolve this, researchers from Bocconi University in Italy recently developed a simpler Human Life Indicator (HLI) that looks at just one set of indicators for measuring development.
The two indicators considered in the new HLI are life expectancy at birth and life expectancy comparisons with other age groups and income classes (life expectancy parity).
For example, a country that has a lower life expectancy among low-income families compared to high-income families has a lower standard of living compared to countries where life expectancy is equal.
The researchers discussed their findings in a study published in the journal Population and Development Review.
While life expectancy at birth and life expectancy parity are related, the HLI examines efforts to reduce inequality in human development across different countries.
“Replacing a set of indicators with a single one makes sense because the components of the HDI are correlated and picking one doesn’t imply a major loss of information,” said Simone Ghislandi, a co-author of the study.
According to the researchers, life expectancy is the most reliable component in the HDI, and the HDI is based on the assumption life has different values depending on the country.
“As the same HDI score can be reached with different combinations of life expectancy and GDP per capita, tinkering with data you can observe different economic values for one year of life in different countries,” said Ghislandi.
The HLI top ten list of countries is much different from the UN’s HDI 2018 revision. The United States ranked 13th on the HDI, but dropped down to 32nd with the HLI. Germany dropped from 5th to 25th on the HLI. Italy, on the other hand, jumped from 28th to 6th on the HLI.
The HDI’s top highest ranking countries are Norway, Switzerland, and Australia but the HLI ranks those countries 9th, 7th, and 10th respectively.
The HLI’s top three countries in terms of human development are now Hong Kong, Japan, and Iceland.