The County Development Index: Quantifying Human Development in a United States Context

Presented by:
Sarah Bond (St. Olaf College)

In 1990, the United Nations created the Human Development Index (HDI) as a metric to holistically measure country development based on more than economic status. Education, health, and monetary variables are used to provide a multidimensional understanding of a nation’s development. While the HDI describes development between countries, m understanding the variation in development within a country requires more detail. The County Development Index (CDI) serves to quantifiably report human development by county in the United States by contextualizing the HDI framework. The index value incorporates health, education, monetary, and community variables specific to life in the U.S. Disaggregating national data by county captures the differences in disadvantages that may exist in a country with a high HDI score. Here, the CDI score is used to separate 3,088 counties into four strata representing low, medium, high, and very high development. Demographic data and additional variables are used to analyze characteristics of each stratum. Results from the CDI rankings can be used to inform policy decisions that will help ensure all U.S. residents the opportunity to achieve their life potential.