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Measuring Key Disparities in Human Development: The Gender Inequality Index


  • Amie Gaye

    () (Human Development Report Office, UNDP)

  • Jeni Klugman

    () (Human Development Report Office, UNDP)

  • Milorad Kovacevic

    () (Human Development Report Office, UNDP)

  • Sarah Twigg

    () (Human Development Report Office, UNDP)

  • Eduardo Zambrano

    () (Department of Economics at the Orfalea College of Business, Cal Poly)


Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development. Girls and women have made major strides since 1990, but they have not yet gained gender equity. In this paper, we review ways to measure and monitor gender inequality, providing a critique of existing measures including the first global gender indices that were launched in the 1995 Human Development Report – the Gender-related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure - and introduce a new index that is presented in the 2010 Human Development Report. The Gender Inequality Index, which addresses the key criticisms of previous measures, is unique in including critical issues of educational attainment, economic and political participation, and reproductive health issues and in accounting for overlapping inequalities at the national level. As such, it represents an important advance on existing global measures of gender equity. Measures of the disadvantages for women raise awareness of problems, permit monitoring of progress towards gender equity objectives and help keep governments accountable. In this light, the Gender Inequality Index is designed to reveal the extent to which the realization of a country’s human development potential is curtailed by gender inequality, and provides empirical foundations for policy analysis and advocacy efforts. We also compare our results with the results of alternative gender inequality indices, finding significant variation in rankings across the various indices due largely to differences in the elements of gender inequality they seek to measure.

Suggested Citation

  • Amie Gaye & Jeni Klugman & Milorad Kovacevic & Sarah Twigg & Eduardo Zambrano, 2010. "Measuring Key Disparities in Human Development: The Gender Inequality Index," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2010-46, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Handle: RePEc:hdr:papers:hdrp-2010-46

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    Cited by:

    1. David Mayer-Foulkes, 2013. "A Cross-country Causal Panorama of Human Development and Sustainability," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 235-251, May.
    2. Janet Gale Stotsky & Sakina Shibuya & Lisa L Kolovich & Suhaib Kebhaj, 2016. "Trends in Gender Equality and Women’s Advancement," IMF Working Papers 16/21, International Monetary Fund.
    3. Mahanta, Bidisha & Nayak, Purusottam, 2013. "Gender Inequality in North East India," MPRA Paper 43846, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Amie Gaye & Jeni Klugman & Milorad Kovacevic & Sarah Twigg & Eduardo Zambrano, 2013. "Measuring gender disparities in human development," Chapters, in: Deborah M. Figart & Tonia L. Warnecke (ed.),Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life, chapter 24, pages 393-409, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Eduardo Zambrano, 2014. "An axiomatization of the human development index," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 42(4), pages 853-872, April.
    6. Iñaki Permanyer, 2013. "A Critical Assessment of the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 1-32, April.
    7. Francisco Goerlich, 2020. "Distributionally adjusted life expectancy as a life table function," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 43(14), pages 365-400.
    8. Iñaki Permanyer, 2013. "Are UNDP Indices Appropriate to Capture Gender Inequalities in Europe?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 927-950, February.
    9. Rosalia Castellano & Antonella Rocca, 2014. "Gender gap and labour market participation: A composite indicator for the ranking of European countries," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(3), pages 345-367, May.
    10. Rosalia Castellano & Antonella Rocca, 2017. "The dynamic of the gender gap in the European labour market in the years of economic crisis," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 51(3), pages 1337-1357, May.
    11. Rosalia CASTELLANO & Antonella ROCCA, 2018. "Gender disparities in European labour markets: A comparison of conditions for men and women in paid employment," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 157(4), pages 589-608, December.
    12. Julia Bock-Schappelwein & Ulrike Famira-Mühlberger & Thomas Horvath & Ulrike Huemer & Elisabeth Schappelwein, 2015. "Gleichstellungsindex Arbeitsmarkt. Eine Analyse des Geschlechterverhältnisses in Österreich," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 57841, October.
    13. Max McDonald & Neal Koblitz, 2019. "One Bad Formula Can Spoil Everything: A Simple Adjustment That Would Improve the UN’s Gender Inequality Index," The Mathematical Intelligencer, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 27-34, June.
    14. Ferretti, Fabrizio & Mariani, Michele, 2017. "Gender Discrimination, Gender Disparities in Obesity and Human Development," MPRA Paper 77728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Julia Bock-Schappelwein, 2015. "Genderindex 2015. Arbeitsmarktlage und Lebenssituation von Frauen und Männern auf regionaler Ebene in Österreich," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 57936, October.

    More about this item


    Human Development; Gender inequality; gender index; human development; measurement;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • C8 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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