Composite Indexes of Human Well-being: Past, Present and Future

  • Mark McGillivray
  • Farhad Noorbakhsh
Part of the Studies in Development Economics and Policy book series (SDEP)


Human well-being is often treated as a multidimensional concept, consisting of a number of distinct, separable dimensions. Theoretical research has identified an array of dimensions. Often specific to a particular conceptualization of well-being; these dimensions can be social, physical, psychological or material in nature (Alkire 2002).1 Empirical research has proposed a number of composite indexes intended to measure multi-dimensional wellbeing, especially at the level of countries. At least twenty composite indices have received international attention in the last four decades (Booysen 2002). The best known, and that which has received the most attention, is the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) (UNDP 1990–2004). Others include the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) (Morris 1979), the Combined Quality of Life Indices (CQLI) (Diener 1995), and the Human Suffering Index (HSI) (Camp and Speidel 1987, Hess 1989, Tilak 1992). Also included in these indexes are United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Level of Living Index (LLI) (Drewnowski and Scott 1966), General Index of Development (GID) (McGranahan et al. 1972), and Socioeconomic Development Index (SDI) (UNRISD 1970). The designers of these indexes typically emphasize that there is more to well-being enhancement than material enrichment, and therefore often combine what might be loosely termed ‘economic’ and ‘non-economic’ well-being indicators.


Human Development Composite Index Human Development Index Purchase Power Parity United Nations Development Programme 
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© United Nations University 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark McGillivray
  • Farhad Noorbakhsh

There are no affiliations available

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