One of the most frequent critiques of the HDI is that is does not take into account inequality within countries in its three dimensions. In this paper, we apply a simply approach to compute the three components and the overall HDI for quintiles of the income distribution. This allows a comparison of the level in human development of the poor with the level of the non-poor within countries, but also across countries. This is an application of the method presented in Grimm et al. (2008) to a sample of 21 low and middle income countries and 11 industrialized countries. In particular the inclusion of the industrialized countries, which were not included in the previous work, implies to deal with a number of additional challenges, which we outline in this paper. Our results show that inequality in human development within countries is high, both in developed and industrialized countries. In fact, the HDI of the lowest quintiles in industrialized countries is often below the HDI of the richest quintile in many middle income countries. We also find, however, a strong overall negative correlation between the level of human development and inequality in human development.

differential mortality, human development, income inequality, inequality in education
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS Working Papers - General Series
ISS Working Paper Series / General Series
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Grimm, M. (2009). Inequality in human development : an empirical assessment of thirty-two countries. ISS Working Paper Series / General Series (Vol. 471, pp. 1–24). Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from