Social and economic measures of development

Development in countries can be measured in several different ways. Some are economic measures, and others are social measures.

Human Development Index

Development is measured using the Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is calculated by the United Nations. Unlike other more simplistic measures, it is a compound index, meaning that it is made up of various key components of a country (education, health and wealth) to determine their level of development.

The countries with the highest HDI are in North America, Europe and Australasia. Countries with the lowest HDI are in Africa and south Asia.The variation of HDI across the world in 2019.

Other measures of development

Some believe that HDI is the best measure of development as it takes into account both economic and social factors. However there are many other measures of development that can be used. Some of them are:

Measure of developmentDescription
Access to safe waterThe percentage of people who have access to safe, clean water.
Birth rateThe number of live births per 1,000 people. Birth rates are often high in a less developed country.
Death rateThe number of deaths per 1,000 people. High death rates can indicate a less developed country.
GNI per capitaGross national income per person. The value of a country's income, divided by the number of people in that country.
Infant mortality rateThe number of babies who do not survive to the age of 1 per 1,000 live births.
Life expectancyThe average age that a person may live to.
Literacy rateThe percentage of adults who can read and write.
People per doctorA ratio to show the number of people per doctor. A lower ratio can indicate a richer country.

The Demographic Transition Model and development

The Demographic Transition Model (DTM) shows population changes over time. There are five stages in the DTM and these stages can be linked to levels of development.

Stage 1 (eg, isolated tribal communites): low total population. Stage 2: death rate decreases. Stage 3: birth rate decreases. Stage 4: population slows. Stage 5 (eg, Germany): population stable.