Introducing the DHDI

What is Human DeveIopment Index?

The UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) was created in 1990 as an alternative to GDP. In the words of its ‘founder’ Mahbub-ul-Haq, it was the culmination of a long search for a more comprehensive measure of development that could capture all, or many more, of the choices people make – a measure that would serve as a better yardstick of the socio-economic progress of nations.” The HDI ranks countries based on how well they do on three variables associated with development – health, education, and per capita income. For over three decades now, the Human Development Index (HDI) has been both embraced and critiqued as a measure of development.

Unaddressed shortcoming of the HDI:

An early critique of the HDI by the Indian economist T.N. Srinivasan was that it had “serious problems of non-comparability over time and space, measurement errors, and biases.” Over the years, the initial HDI has undergone many changes to accommodate criticisms of what was measured and how it was measured. These changes have resulted in many HDI siblings, including the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Development Index, the Multidimensional Poverty Index, etc. However, there has been no good modification to the HDI to deal with issues of comparability across time.

How does the DHDI improve upon the HDI?

We present a dynamic index – the Dynamic HDI - which captures the performance of countries across time while preserving the spirit of the underlying rationale for the HDI (which is to look beyond just GDP as a measure of development). The DHDI ranks countries based on their combined improvement in the variables used to calculate the HDI. It tells us how well countries are improving based on the variables of development that are used, rather than simply telling us how well countries are doing. In the words of its developers, “It is putting development in the Human Development Index.”
The HDI ranks countries based on how fast they run. The DHDI ranks countries based on how much they improve in their running speeds.


The visualization below shows the DHDI rankings compared to the HDI rankings over time for 5 countries. You can play the animation and see how the HDI ranks hardly change over the year. The countries with high HDI ranking in 2000 stays high till 2019, and the countries with the low HDI ranking in 2000 stays low till 2019. For example, Norway ranks no. 1 in HDI for all years except 2010, 2012 and 2013, and Zimbabwe is always between 110 to 141. However, if you look at the DHDI, Zimbabwe ranks in top 20 for 6 straight years (2009 to 2014), and the United States, with HDI ranking always in the top 20, doesn't really do well in the DHDI ranks, and actually ranks 174 + for four consecutive years (2013 to 2016).

If you want to compare DHDI rankings of countries not included in the chart below, click here

The visualization below compares the DHDI ranking to the HDI ranking throughout 2004 to 2019 for all the countries in the world. You can filter out different regions and observe how the countries in that region fair over time in terms of HDI and DHDI rankings.

For example, if you look at Eastern and South Eastern Asian countries from 2014 to 2019, you can see how they move from the Low DHDI quadrants to the High DHDI and High HDI quadrant in the span of those 5 years, indicating an improvement in human development which reflects in their DHDI ranking.

If you enjoyed these visualizations, there is still so much more to explore!

How is the DHDI calculated?

Interactive DHDI Visualizations

More information