Development inequalities from a broader perspective: A proposed index - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

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Development inequalities from a broader perspective: A proposed index

ESCWA Publication: E/ESCWA/CL6.GCP/2022/TP.1


Country: Arab region

Publication Type: Information material

Cluster: Governance and Conflict Prevention

Focus Area: Inclusive development, Statistics

Initiatives: Governance and institution building, Enhancing integrated national development planning

SDGs: Agenda 2030

Keywords: Development indicators, Indexes, Equality, Measurement, Statistical data

Development inequalities from a broader perspective: A proposed index

January 2023

The present paper aims to assess inequality across multiple dimensions. To do so, we introduce an innovative multidimensional inequality measurement that can be applied as a tool for global and regional policy advocacy and national policymaking. The aim is to go beyond using inequality as a factor to discount human development achievements in health, education and income and propose a new Development Inequalities Index (DII) that regards social inequalities as a distinct societal challenge, and inequality reduction as a worthy development end goal of its own. DII transcends existing treatments by imposing a structure on the analysis of multidimensional inequalities – isolating horizontal and vertical inequalities in human development, environmental sustainability and governance – and reflecting their cumulative burden through an aggregation approach. The DII framework is an extension of the Development Challenges Index and aims to go beyond considering the averages to addressing multidimensional inequalities.


Our analysis shows that DII provides meaningful insight regarding countries’ developmental experience beyond income inequality measures, IHDI or even DCI scores, introducing caveats to the conclusions from these other widely accepted measures. We also find that many countries exhibit higher inequality on the DII than on other unidimensional inequality indicators. Oil-rich countries for example have much worse DII rankings than DCI rankings. Finally, governance inequalities are the primary source of inequalities for most countries globally, and environmental and human development inequalities dominate in a handful of countries.

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