Colorful Development: RGB-coded Multidimensional HDI

UPDATE: This post has been developed into a web-app! This fresh post gives an introduction.
UPDATE: Please also check out the new post updated with dynamic plots for 1980-2013!
Open interactive plot!

Human Development Index Component Inequality Tripolar Plot – click for interactive

This post will be about the Human Development Index and the Red-Green-Blue color model (RGB). I present a novel approach towards visualizing the component inequality within the HDI and thus giving back its multidimensionality. The result is powerful as it highlights the main focus area for development policies for all countries at a glance (circular plot above – also check the interactive version)!

Formulated in the 90’s by Harvard Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, the HDI was developed as a means to set development targets for UN agencies and to create a way to monitor progress on those targets that is not solely based economic context. Right from the very beginning, the HDI received a lot of criticism for being redundant, having technical issues or not being overwhelming enough. The bottleneck of the HDI is arguably its apparent simplicity – concentrating a load of information into just one number and ranking entire countries based on that. Therefore many other replacement indices were suggested that claim to be more multidimensional and capture a wider picture of countries that is closer to reality. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Multidimensional Poverty Index, developed in 2010 by UNDP, used in conjunction with the HDI now in their official reports, and the Happy Planet Index, soon to be analyzed in an upcoming post. However, at the core the HDI is still  very multidimensional but the way in which it is depicted today takes away this multidimensionality. Now I will try to give it back and defend the HDI’s validity, with some (large) asterisks 🙂

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