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The human development index as a criterion for optimal planning

  • Merwan Engineer
  • Ian King
  • Nilanjana Roy

Purpose – The human development index (HDI) and gender-related development index (GDI) have become accepted as leading measures for ranking human well being in different countries. The purpose of this paper is to identify the planning policies that improve these indices and to also suggest modifications to the indices that yield more sensible policies. Design/methodology/approach – This paper solves the first-best welfare problem in which the planner maximizes a development index subject to resource constraints. Findings – Planning strategies that maximize the HDI tend towards minimizing consumption and maximizing expenditures on education and health. Interestingly, such strategies also tend towards equitable allocations, even though inequality aversion is not modelled in the HDI. The paper shows that the GDI generates optimal plans with similar properties, and determine when the GDI and HDI generate consistent optimal plans. A problematic feature of the optimal plans is that the income component in the HDI (or GDI) does not play its intended role of securing resources for a decent standard of living. Rather, it acts to distort the allocation between health and education expenditure. The paper argues that it is better to drop income from the index. Alternatively, the paper considers net income, income net of education and health expenditures, as indicating capabilities not already reflected in the index. Finally, it compares how the modified indices and the HDI rank countries. Originality/value – The paper is believed to be the first to integrate development indices into national development planning.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Indian Growth and Development Review.

Volume (Year): 1 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (December)
Pages: 172-192

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Handle: RePEc:eme:igdrpp:v:1:y:2008:i:2:p:172-192
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  1. James Foster & Luis Lopez-Calva & Miguel Szekely, 2005. "Measuring the Distribution of Human Development: methodology and an application to Mexico," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 5-25.
  2. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
  3. Sen, Amartya, 1981. "Public Action and the Quality of Life in Developing Countries," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 43(4), pages 287-319, November.
  4. Sudhir Anand & Amartya Sen, 2000. "The Income Component of the Human Development Index," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 83-106.
  5. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2005. "How Should We Measure The "Economic" Aspects Of Well-Being? ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 311-336, 06.
  6. Sudhir Anand & Martin Ravallion, 1993. "Human Development in Poor Countries: On the Role of Private Incomes and Public Services," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 133-150, Winter.
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