Tag Archives: Human Development Index

Good ideas for bad times

1st December 2010, by Charles Kenny, New America Foundation

In what sometimes looked like the worst of times, it was actually the best of times for ideas — and these ideas will shape how the world recovers in the years to come. This year produced a serious contender, the Multidimensional Poverty Index developed by Sabina Alkire, Maria Emma Santos, and James Foster for the UNDP. Read more

Rank Robustness of Composite Indices

Many common multidimensional indices take the form of a ‘composite index’ or a weighted average of several dimension-specific achievements. Rankings arising from such an index are dependent upon an initial weighting vector, and any given judgment could, in principle, be reversed if an alternative weighting vector was employed. This paper examines a variable-weight robustness criterion for composite indicators that views a comparison as robust if the ranking is not reversed at any weight vector within a given set. We characterize the resulting robustness relations for various sets of weighting vectors and illustrate how they moderate the complete ordering generated by the composite indicator. We propose a measure by which the robustness of a given comparison may be gauged and illustrate its usefulness using data from the Human Development Index. In particular, we show how some country rankings are fully robust to changes in weights while others are quite fragile. We investigate the prevalence of the different levels of robustness in theory and practice and offer insight as to why certain datasets tend to have more robust comparisons.

Citation: Foster, J., McGillivray, M. and Seth, S. (2009). ‘Rank robustness of composite indices’, OPHI Working Paper 26, University of Oxford.

Inequality, Interactions, and Human Development

The Human Development Index, which is multidimensional by construction, is criticized on the ground that it is insensitive to any form of inequality across persons. Inequality in the multidimensional context can take two distinct forms. The first pertains to the spread of the distribution across persons, analogous to unidimensional inequality. The second, in contrast, deals with interactions among dimensions. The second form of inequality is important as dimensional interactions may alter individual-level evaluations as well as overall inequality. Recently proposed indices have incorporated only the first form of inequality, but not the second. It is an important omission. This paper proposes a two-parameter class of human development indices that reflects sensitivity to both forms of inequality. It is revealed how consideration of interactions among dimensions affects policy recommendations. Finally, the indices are applied to the year 2000 Mexican census data to contrast the present approach with the existing approaches.

Citation: Seth, S. (2009). “Inequality, Interactions, and Human Development.” OPHI Working Paper 23, University of Oxford.