The Human Development Index is the world's most famous indicator of the level of development of societies. A disadvantage of this index is however that only national values are available, whereas within many countries huge subnational variation in development exists. We therefore have developed the Subnational Human Development Index (SHDI), which shows within‐country variation in human development across the globe. Covering more than 1,600 regions within 161 countries, the SHDI and its underlying dimension indices provide a 10 times higher resolution picture of human development than previously available. The newly observed within‐country variation is particularly strong in low‐ and middle‐developed countries. Education disparities explain most SHDI inequality within low‐developed countries, and standard of living differences are most important within the more highly developed ones. Strong convergence forces operating both across and within countries have compensated the inequality enhancing force of population growth. These changes will shape the twenty‐first century agenda of scientists and policy‐makers concerned with global distributive justice.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.