Introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1990, the Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of education, income and longevity indices, calculated in order to measure social and economic development within countries. It consists of a number between 0 and 1, comprising five tiers of human development—very low, low, medium, high, or very high—wherein the development is considered higher when closer to 1. According to the latest Human Development Report, published in 2013 and reflecting data from 2012, Brazil placed 85th among 187 countries with an HDI value of 0.730. The UNDP highlighted the "rapid advance" of Brazil in two decades, leaving a situation of low human development (0.590) in 1990, reaching medium development (0.669) in 2000 and, finally, achieving high human development (0.726) in 2010.
Since the beginning of the statistical series in 1991, the Federal District, which contains the national capital—Brasília—, has the highest HDI among the 27 federative units of Brazil, being the only one to fall in the category of very high human development according to 2010 figures. It also topped every subindex composing the HDI, except for longevity, when, in 1991, it was surpassed by Santa Catarina. Meanwhile, Alagoas set out the lowest HDI since 2000, especially due to a poor performance in education. Tocantins put forward the fastest progress in HDI value (0.330) from 1991 to 2010, while Rio de Janeiro had the smallest increase (0.188). According to the UNDP report, the states of the North and Northeast regions have the lowest indicators, with most municipalities registering low or medium human development, while in the South, more than 65% of municipalities have achieved high human development.
The methodology used by the UNDP to measure the HDI of all 5,565 Brazilian municipalities and 27 federative units differs from that used for countries. Although it has the same three dimensions of the global HDI—education, income and longevity—it adapts the global methodology to the Brazilian context and the availability of national indicators. Therefore, a comparison between Brazilian federative units and countries is discouraged and the numbers cannot be used as a parameter. The global report uses mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling to evaluate education, while the local report utilizes schooling of the adult population and school flow of young people. In the case of income, while the global report uses GNI per capita (PPPUSD), the local report makes use of the Municipal Income per capita (BRL). As for longevity, both use life expectancy at birth as indicator.
^Considering that the UNDP uses data provided by census, the HDI was exceptionally calculated in 1991 because of the postponement of the 1990 census by the IBGE due to political and institutional reasons.
^Because of the difference in methodology used to calculate the HDI of Brazilian federative units and countries, although similar, there is a discrepancy between the figures for Brazil presented in the local and global reports of the UNDP.