Indicators of development

Development is an increase in the standard of living of the people in a country. It includes economic factors such as wealth and social factors such as literacy.

Both social and economic indicators can be used to determine if a country is developed or developing, and to identify the main similarities and differences between them.

Economically developed countries

Economic indicators of development

These measure the economic output or wealth of a country. These include Gross National Product (GNP) which is the value of goods produced by a country divided by the total population to give an average income for each citizen.

However there are problems with looking at only one indicator such as GNP:

  • This is an average and so may be easily distorted by a few very wealthy families which may mask extreme poverty for the majority of the population.
  • It does not take into account the cost of goods which affects what people can buy with their wages.
  • How wealthy a country is does not take into account how this money is used as it does not show data on how well educated people are or how good their diet is.
  • It does not take into account differences between urban and rural areas, eg in Brazil between poor favela areas (shanty towns) and wealthier inner cities.

Social indicators of development

These measure social issues and indicate how good the quality of life is in a particular country. For example:

HealthNumber of people per doctor
EducationPercentage of adults who are literate
DietNumber of calories consumed per person per day
Life expectancyAverage age people are expected to live to
Infant mortalityNumber of children per 1,000 born who die before the age of one
Population changeNumber of babies born per 1,000 women per year

As with using only economic indicators similar problems occur when trying to evaluate the development of a country using only social indicators.

Social indicators are also averages across a country so they hide regional differences and do not compare health with education and diet. It is better to examine both social and economic indicators if you want to get a true picture of development in a country.