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Social Progress Index

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2022 Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Index (SPI) measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens. Fifty-four indicators in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity to progress show the relative performance of nations. The index is published by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, and is based on the writings of Amartya Sen, Douglass North, and Joseph Stiglitz.[1] The SPI measures the well-being of a society by observing social and environmental outcomes directly rather than the economic factors. The social and environmental factors include wellness (including health, shelter and sanitation), equality, inclusion, sustainability and personal freedom and safety.[2][full citation needed]

Introduction and methodology[edit]

The index combines three dimensions:

  1. Basic human needs
  2. Foundations of well-being
  3. Opportunity

Each dimension includes four components, which are each composed of between three and five specific outcome indicators. The included indicators are selected because they are measured appropriately, with a consistent methodology, by the same organization across all (or essentially all) of the countries in the sample. Together, this framework aims to capture a broad range of interrelated factors revealed by the scholarly literature and practitioner experience as underpinning social progress.

Two key features of the Social Progress Index are:[3]

  1. the exclusion of economic variables
  2. the use of outcome measures rather than inputs

Social Progress Imperative evaluated hundreds of possible indicators while developing the Social Progress Index, including engaging researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to determine what indicators best differentiated the performance of nations. The index uses outcome measures when there are sufficient data available or the closest possible proxies.[4]

Social Progress Index Rankings[edit]

Data are for the year 2022.[5]


The index's measure of good governance has been criticized for using data biased against the Global South, and some critics have noted that much of the criteria are based on Western Values. There has also been debate on the relevance or accuracy of many of the measurements for gender equality.[6] A 2016 survey of online users browsing the SPI website indicated that as one of the index's flaws, 34% of respondents found the data incomplete and/or inaccurate, primarily referencing environmental hazards, energy usage, specific health issues, employment availability and quality, income inequality, gender inequality, and corruption as areas not sufficiently taken into account.[7]

From an econometric stand point, the Index appears to be similar to other efforts aimed at overcoming the limitation of traditional economic measures such as the gross domestic product (GDP). A notable criticism is that although the Social Progress Index can be seen as a superset of indicators used by earlier econometric models such as Gross National Well-being Index 2005, Bhutan Gross National Happiness Index of 2012, and World Happiness Report of 2012, unlike them, it ignores measures of subjective life satisfaction and psychological well-being. Other critics point out that "there remain certain dimensions that are currently not included in the SPI. These are the concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent of the population, efficiency of the judicial system, and quality of the transportation infrastructure."[8]

Some critics argue for caution. Though words such as "inclusive capitalism" are now bandied around increasingly to signal a new age, free from ideological battlegrounds between public and private, much of what the organization's founders say about it confirms that the index is about more "business inclusive" than "inclusive capitalism".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Beyond GDP". The Economist. April 18, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  2. ^ "Home". socialprogressimperative.org. Social Progress Imperitive. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  3. ^ "Data - Social Progress Index - Methodology". socialprogressimperative.org. Social Progress Imperative. Archived from the original on May 26, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  4. ^ Fehder, Daniel; Stern, Scott (2013). "The Social Progress Index Methodology" (PDF). Social Progress Index 2013. Social Progress Imperative. pp. 39–54. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 23, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  5. ^ "Global Index: Results". Social Progress Imperative. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
  6. ^ Ruggeri, Amanda (January 12, 2018). "How can you measure what makes a country great?". BBC. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  7. ^ Social Progress Imperative User Study (PDF) (Report). Weisblatt & Associés. March 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  8. ^ Balangue, David L. (November 29, 2014). "Social Progress Index". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Ensor, Charlie (May 3, 2016). "A new index to measure social progress, but what is it really telling us?". Humanosphere. Retrieved September 5, 2021.

External links[edit]