H OW WELL off is humanity? Which countries’ citizens are thriving and which are languishing? Where are people making progress and where are they sliding back? Often the answers to such questions come from examining their economies. GDP per person, however, can only show so much. More important is how prosperity translates into well-being. A dataset published on May 24th by the Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit organisation, aims to show that. It ranks 170 countries on how well they have provided for their citizens, using metrics other than wealth. See how they compare in our interactive chart below.
The organisation is not alone in measuring development by methods other than money counting. The UN’s Human Development Index, for instance, combines GDP per person with measures of health and education. But the Social Progress Index (SPI) eschews GDP entirely. Instead, it tracks 52 indicators and groups them into three categories, to which it gives equal weight: basic human needs (such as food and water), the foundations for long-term development (education and health care) and “opportunity” (including personal rights and freedoms).
The results still suggest a link between wealth and well-being: the richest countries are often the ones where citizens thrive. Conditions are worst in the poorest. But the data also show that countries that have made great progress in some areas, such as meeting basic needs, let their citizens down in others, especially in protecting and expanding their freedoms.