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Measuring human and Sustainable Development: An Integrated Approach for European Countries


  • Valeria Costantini
  • Salvatore Monni


During the last few years, sustainable development has represented one of the most important policy goals at global level and how to design specific policy actions, measuring performance and results continues to present a challenge. Scientific research has explored different analysis directions in order to identify a synthetic indicator to evaluate policy planning and achievements that goes beyond traditional income indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In consideration of the social dimension of sustainable development, including health, education and employment, the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme represents a widely accepted methodology to be used as a starting point for building a more sustainable-oriented development index. The aim of this paper is to identify a numerical measure of what Amartya Sen defined as “sustainable human development” using a human development framework and adapt it taking into account more specific environmental aspects. For this purpose, building a complex Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI) may be a difficult task because of data availability and the European countries – especially the European Union - could be a useful pilot area for testing the methodology. The most recent efforts of the EU to standardize statistical information at country level enable us to build more complex indicators, including those with economic, social and environmental dimensions. Long-term sustainability requires the maintenance of capital stock to guarantee constant or growing welfare levels. In a human development perspective, the sustainability condition has been directly analysed on the well-being side, assuming that a constant or growing SHDI could be the result of constant growing capital assets. An SHDI represents the core element of a comparative analysis to assess the effectiveness and the distributional effects of European policies, including environmental actions. Finally, a sensitivity analysis of the results will enable us to underline the key factors of effective sustainable human development and, at the same time test the real meaning of such a modified composite index compared with the existing GDP and HDI.

Suggested Citation

  • Valeria Costantini & Salvatore Monni, 2004. "Measuring human and Sustainable Development: An Integrated Approach for European Countries," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0041, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
  • Handle: RePEc:rtr:wpaper:0041

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sudhir Anand and Amartya Sen, 1995. "Gender Inequality in Human Development: Theories and Measurement," Human Development Occasional Papers (1992-2007) HDOCPA-1995-01, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
    2. Kenneth J. Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Karl-Göran Mäler, 2003. "The genuine savings criterion and the value of population," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 21(2), pages 217-225, March.
    3. Satya R. Chakravarty, 2003. "A Generalized Human Development Index," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(1), pages 99-114, February.
    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. repec:reg:rpubli:132 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Geir B. Asheim, 2003. "Green national accounting for welfare and sustainability:A Taxonomy Of Assumptions And Results," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(2), pages 113-130, May.
    7. 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.
    8. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Valeria Costantini & Salvatore Monni, 2005. "Measuring Human Development and Environmental Sustainability in European Countries," QA - Rivista dell'Associazione Rossi-Doria, Associazione Rossi Doria, issue 2, May.

    More about this item


    human development; sustainable development; sustainability indicators;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


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