Journal Article

A simple measure of human development: The Human Life Index

The goal of the Human Development Index (HDI) is to provide a comprehensive measure of human well-being. The HDI accomplishes this by combining indices in three key domains of human development: health, education, and economic conditions. Despite widespread agreement with its goal, the HDI has been criticized on a number of methodological grounds including: (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. In this article, we introduce the Human Life Indicator (HLI), which is a variant of life expectancy that takes inequality in life spans into account. Life expectancy is the least error-prone of all the HDI components. HLI is free from other shortcomings intrinsic to HDI. The behavior of 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. HLI can be used in policy analyses at the subnational level and can help in the evaluation of progress toward the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.