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The Human Development Index in Historical Perspective: Italy from Political Unification to the Present Day


  • Leandro Conte


  • Giuseppe Della Torre


  • Michelangelo Vasta



The aim of this research is to provide a long run estimate of the Human Development Index (HDI) for Italy. To this purpose we have reconstructed Italian historical series relative to life expectancy, literacy rate, school enrolment rates and income. All the series presented are the result of a study which has produced, starting from primary sources, original series disaggregated to the regional level. The possibility of having, for Italy, a basis of comparison with the main developed countries has permitted us to show that, even though there has been significant progress in the values of the single variables, the country has not appreciably improved its position in the world ranking. This seems to be due, in large part, to the trend of the education variables that displays values decidedly distant from those of the main industrialized countries. As far as regional trends are concerned, we can observe a slow process of alignment of the values of the Southern regions to the values of the other Italian regions for levels of education and longevity, while income levels for the 1990s still remain quite distant.

Suggested Citation

  • Leandro Conte & Giuseppe Della Torre & Michelangelo Vasta, 2007. "The Human Development Index in Historical Perspective: Italy from Political Unification to the Present Day," Department of Economics University of Siena 491, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:491

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    Cited by:

    1. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2010. "Improving Human Development: A Long-Run View," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 841-894, December.
    2. Andrea Brandolini & Giovanni Vecchi, 2011. "The Well-Being of Italians: A Comparative Historical Approach," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 19, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. Jana Asher & Beth Osborne Daponte, 2010. "A Hypothetical Cohort Model of Human Development," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2010-40, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
    4. Emanuele Felice & Michelangelo Vasta, 2015. "Passive modernization? The new human development index and its components in Italy's regions (1871–2007)," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 44-66.
    5. Giovanni Iuzzolino & Guido Pellegrini & Gianfranco Viesti, 2011. "Convergence among Italian Regions, 1861-2011," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 22, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    6. Gabriele Cappelli, 2016. "One size that didn’t fit all? Electoral franchise, fiscal capacity and the rise of mass schooling across Italy’s provinces, 1870–1911," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 10(3), pages 311-343, September.
    7. Gabriele Cappelli, 2016. "Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy's regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861–1936," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 46-65.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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