James foster george washington university and ophi
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Reflections on the Human Development Index. James Foster George Washington University and OPHI. 2 nd Conference on Measuring Human Progress 4-5 March 2013, New York. Introduction. HDI Remarkable accomplishment Attracted criticism A rbitrary decisions Purpose of this short talk

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James Foster George Washington University and OPHI

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James foster george washington university and ophi

Reflections on the Human Development Index

James FosterGeorge Washington University and OPHI

2nd Conference on Measuring Human Progress

4-5 March 2013, New York


Introduction

Introduction

  • HDI

    • Remarkable accomplishment

    • Attracted criticism

      • Arbitrary decisions

  • Purpose of this short talk

    • Focus on aspects of HDI that might be improved

    • Consider alternatives

    • Offer suggestions

      • View as less arbitrary


Desiderata

Desiderata

(Ia) It must understandable and easy to describe

(Ib) It must conform to a common sense notion of what is being measured

(II) It must fit the purpose for which it is being developed

(III) It must be technically solid

(IVa) It must be operationallyviable

(IVb) It must be easily replicable


Desiderata1

Desiderata

  • (I) corresponds to strong policy needs

    • Understandable at a deeper level including cutoffs

    • Measuring absolute size of HD

      • Atkinson’s independence of other countries – not relative

    • Anchored in underlying variables

    • Numbers mean something

  • (II) concerns the intended purpose of the measure

    • Compete with GNI per capita

    • Compare HD achievements across countries

    • Monitoring progress across time for a given country

    • Drilling in or out (subgroups or dimensions)


Desiderata2

Desiderata

  • (III) is is theoretical justification

    • Axioms to make sure measure conforms to purpose

    • Theoretical framework (say within welfare economics)

  • (IV) concerns practicality

    • Does it work with existing data?

    • Can it be updated in time?

  • These are benchmarks to compare and evaluate particular versions of HDI

  • Contrast with GNI per capita

    • Poor in (II), better in others?


Outline of paper

Outline of Paper

  • Reconsider frequent recalibration of top and bottom goalposts

    • Confounds understanding over time

    • Gives countries unclear signals

  • Reconsider HDI demarcations into relative groups

    • Purely relative to deflect criticism

    • But ends up deflecting incentives

  • Reconsider functional form

    • New geometric has certain characteristics

    • Old arithmetic has others

    • Which is best?


Outline of paper1

Outline of Paper

  • Other themes

    • How to anchor HDI values

      • Through normalized variables or through original variables?

    • Purely data driven goalposts

      • Cause much confusion

      • Ought to have firm normative basis

      • Not just a (relative) function of observed achievements

    • Differentiate purposes of goalposts

      • Upper (aspiration) vs. lower (natural zeroes)

      • Lowershould stay fixed

      • Upper may change periodically

        • Are irrelevant for new HDI, can be made so for old


Lower goalposts natural zeroes

Lower Goalposts: Natural Zeroes

  • Fixed natural zeroes

    • Why should they change over time?

    • Conflicts with description of HDI as measure of absolute size

    • Need to satisfy measurement properties

    • Analogous to poverty cutoff for countries

  • Desiderata

    • Needed for measure to be simple and easy to explain

    • Needed to conform to measurement of HD

    • Fits purpose to compare over time and space


Understanding the hdis

Understanding the HDIs

  • Gist in 2-dimensional graphs

    • From original variables

    • To bottom normalized data (net variables)

      • Each measured from natural zeroes


James foster george washington university and ophi

Original Variables

Original

Variable 2

natural zero

Original Variable 1

natural zero


James foster george washington university and ophi

Net Variables

Net Variable x2

0

Net Variable x1

0


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

New HDI

Net Variable x2

Wx = x11/2x21/2

Aspiration level

x

WA

Wx

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

New HDI

Net Variable x2

HDIN = Wx/WA

Aspiration level

x

WA

Wx

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

New HDI

Net Variable x2

HDIN = Wx/WA

Aspiration level

x

WA

Wx

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

New HDI

Net Variable x2

HDIN = Wx/WA

Only uses reference level WA

x

WA

Wx

0

Net Variable x1

0


Functional form

Functional Form

  • HDIN can be viewed as a social evaluation function of net variables, normalized by a reference level.

    • No need for upper goalposts or aspiration levels

      • But can use to set reference level

    • New ref level yields a multiple of previous HDIN

      • Same rankings

      • Same rates of growth

      • Other convenient properties


Functional form1

Functional Form

  • HDIO: Arithmetic mean is used

    • But exactly how?

    • Return to graph


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Set the slope of HDIO indifference

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Set the slope of HDIO indifference

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

What if aspiration levels change?

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

What if aspiration levels change?

Slopes change - inconsistent

Aspiration level

0

0

Net Variable x1

Old

Aspiration level

New

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Always?

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

Slope unchanged if new

levels are proportionate

Slope unchanged if new

levels are proportionate

Aspiration level

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


James foster george washington university and ophi

Upper Goalposts: Aspiration Levels

Net Variable x2

HDIO = Wx/WA

Aspiration level

x

WA

Wx

0

Net Variable x1

0

Aspiration level


Functional form2

Functional Form

  • HDIO can be viewed as a social evaluation function of net variables, normalized by a reference level – if aspiration levels stay in proportion

    • New ref level yields a multiple of previous HDIO

      • Same rankings

      • Same rates of growth

      • Other convenient properties


Summary of suggestions

Summary of Suggestions

  • Leave natural zeroes as natural zeroes

  • Alter aspiration levels only infrequently

    • 5 – 10 years normative targets

    • In a constrained way (or proportionate)

    • All past inconsistencies will then be caused by data updates

      • Not by HDRO


Summary of suggestions1

Summary of Suggestions

  • Fix absolute demarcation cutoffs for categorizing countries

    • Alternative 1: choose relatively, then fix absolutely

    • Alternative 2: Look within variables for natural cutoffs

  • Note: They will be arbitrary

    • Like poverty lines, like middle class ranges

    • But if fixed over time, countries can progress

    • And given above recalibration methods

      • Consistent cutoffs can be maintained over time


Summary of suggestions2

Summary of Suggestions

  • Go back to original arithmetic formula

    • With fixed zeroes

    • With aspirations cutoffs constrained and updated infrequently

      • Normative, not positive


Summary of suggestions3

Summary of Suggestions

  • Why arithmetic?

    • Simple and understandable

    • With above calibrations, similar properties to HDIN

    • Decomposability by dimension (as in MPI)

    • Potential for decomposability by subgroup if data permits

      • Mean of log individual incomes

      • Rather than log of mean incomes


Summary of suggestions4

Summary of Suggestions

  • What about inequality across dimensions?

    • HDIN accounts for it

    • HDIO does not

      • Note the Atkinson Inequality measure: IA = (HDIO – HDIN)/HDIO

    • But this form of inequality is not the priority!

    • Within dimension inequality is key!

      • Focus: Need data to move to IHDI as the standard


Summary of suggestions5

Summary of Suggestions

  • Alternative transformations for variables?

    • Careful to maintain simplicity!

    • Chakravarty: HDI0 form but with all variables transformed by a common concave function

    • Of course this is possible

      • Simplicity? Lose the close connection between variable and measure – it is a function of the normalized variable!

        • But can decompose by dimension

      • No possibility for subgroup decomposition

        • Even if alter data

      • Why transform income and others identically?


Thank you

Thank you!


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