The state of the nation is often expressed through Gross National Product, daily stock market results, consumer spending levels, and national debt figures. But these numbers provide only a partial view of how people are faring.
The Human Development Index was developed as an alternative to simple money metrics. It is an easy-to-understand numerical measure made up of what most people believe are the very basic ingredients of human well-being: health, education, and income. The first Human Development Index was presented in 1990. It has been an annual feature of every Human Development Report since, ranking virtually every country in the world from number one (currently Iceland) to number 177 (currently Sierra Leone).
This composite index has become one of the most widely used indices of well-being around the world and has succeeded in broadening the measurement and discussion of well-being beyond the important, but nevertheless narrow, confines of income. In a number of countries, the Human Development Index is now an official government statistic; its annual publication inaugurates serious political discussion and renewed efforts, nationally and regionally, to improve lives.