“I really don’t like indices, particularly those that claim to measure what are termed “social issues”. And they seem to be everywhere. Ok, the Human Development Index did a lot to push countries to do more on health and education, and its rankings serve to pit countries in good competition with each other. Single measures are also intuitive and easy for monitoring purposes.
Just to stop my initial train of thought here, I have two problems with indices that measure “well-being”: first, they are often weighted and the weights assigned to individual components expose the subjectivity of their creators. If you think primary education is more important than reproductive health, and you assign weights that way, that’s what your index will pick up.
Second, in a bid to make them comparable across countries, their creators make indices awfully generic – almost reductionist. There’s no room for context specificity. Even the HDI reduces “human development” to life expectancy at birth, schooling and gross national income per capita. Both the problems I have with indices become really grave when you are trying to measure something as context-specific and as steeped in how people feel as is “social inclusion”.”