Global Data Lab

Human Development Indices (5.0)

186 countries, 1783 sub-national regions
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Construction of the Subnational Human Development Index and Subnational Gender Development Index

The Subnational Human Development Index (SHDI) and Subnational Gender Development Index (SGDI) presented at this website are a translation of the UNDP’s official HDI and GDI ( to the subnational level.

The SHDI is an average of the subnational values of three dimensions: education, health and standard of living. In its official version defined at the national level, these dimensions are measured with the following indicators: Education measured with the variables ‘Mean years of schooling of adults aged 25+’ and ‘Expected years of schooling of children aged 6’; health measured with ‘Life expectancy at birth’ and standard of living measured with ‘Gross National Income per capita (PPP, 2011 US$)’. Details about the estimation procedure can be found here

To construct the SHDI for the period 1990-2018, we computed the subnational variation in these indicators and applied it to their national values derived from the UNDP website ( For computing the subnational values, basically two different data sources were used: indicators derived from the Area Database of the Global Data Lab ( and indicator data obtained from statistical offices. The indicators derived from the GDL Area Database are the major source of data for low and middle income countries (LMICs) and those obtained from statistical offices for high-income countries (HICs).

Because life expectancy and Gross National Income per capita (GNIc) are not readily available in the household surveys and census datasets from which the GDL Area Database is constructed, their subnational values for LMICs had to be estimated. For life expectancy, this was done on the basis of data on under-five mortality and for GNIc on the basis of household wealth. To measure household wealth, the International Wealth Index (IWI) was used, an indicator of household’s standard of living based on asset ownership, housing quality and access to public services (Smits & Steendijk, 2015).

For years for which subnational data for one or more indicators was missing, the values of these variables were estimated by linear interpolation between the preceding and succeeding year for which this information was available. If interpolation was not possible, the subnational values of the nearest year were used. The subnational variation obtained in this way was subsequently applied to the UNDP national values, so that for each year in the period 1990-2017 the (population weighted) mean of the subnational values is in line with the UNDP values.

Further information on the construction of the SHDI Database can be found in Smits & Permanyer (2019), The Subnational Human Development Database. (Nature) Scientific Data, 6, 190038 and in Permanyer & Smits. (2020). Inequality in human development across the globe. Population and Development Review. 46(3)

To create the SGDI, separate female and male versions of the SHDI were constructed. To make these gender-specific SHDIs, exactly the same procedure was used as with the general SHDI, but using gender specific versions of the indicators for education, health and standard of living. The SGDI was subsequently created by dividing the female version of the SHDI by the male version of the SHDI.

An SGDI value below one indicates gender inequality to the disadvantage of females. Values above one indicate gender inequality to the disadvantage of males. A value of one indicates gender parity.

Jeroen Smits & Iñaki Permanyer

October, 2020


The contribution of Iñaki Permanyer to this project was supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC-2014-StG-637768, EQUALIZE project).