Introduction to Political Science PART 16 – Measuring Development

Welcome to the last post in my introductory series about political science. The topic of today is development. A common way to measure a country’s development is by measuring its economic growth. However, if only a small minority of people benefits from economic growth, can we really say that a country is developing? In this post, we’ll learn about measures of human development or improvements in quality of life. In particular, we will use three human development measures – income equality, life expectancy, and infant mortality.

There are several ways to measure a country’s development. One way is to measure the growth of its economy. If we only measure economic growth, though, it is difficult to know if the benefits of growth are distributed throughout society. Studying human development data, on the other hand, helps us to understand how societies use the benefits of economic growth to benefit their societies.

If a small minority of people has most of the money in a country, then it is difficult for most people to improve their lives. One way to measure income equality is with a Gini score. A Gini score of  “100” means that one person in society has all of the money. It is perfectly unequal. A Gini score of “0” means that everyone in society has the same amount of money. It is perfectly equal. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s World Factbook, Japan’s Gini score is 37.9, India’s is 35.2, The US’s is 45.0, and China’s is 46.5.[1] From this data, we can see that the US and China are more similar to each other than India and Japan. In Japan, the gap between rich and poor people is smaller than in the US and China. We can also see that the gap between the rich and the poor is wide in the US although its economy pretty large.

Another measure of human development is life expectancy at birth, or the average age to which a group of people born in the same year can expect to live. In most countries, women have a higher life expectancy than men. That is true of all four countries in this analysis. Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Switzerland and Singapore are in the top five.  They all have a life expectancy of over 84 years old. The United States, in contrast, has the 46th highest life expectancy. China has improved in recent years and is in 64th place, and some of the lowest life expectancies are in Africa.

A third measure of human development is infant mortality. Infant mortality is the number of babies who die within one year per 1,000 live births. Most Scandinavian countries, and other countries such as Japan, Cyprus, San Marino, Montenegro, and Slovenia has the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Each year, on average, only 2.0 per 1,000 babies die within one year of their birth. In the US, the average is about 6. China’s infant mortality rate has lowered to 6, and sadly the largest proportion of countries are over 20. In fact, the average infant mortality rate for all the countries in the world is over 20, too. Many poorer countries have lowered their mortality rates in recent years, so we can say that that such countries making progress on this measure of human development.

In this video, we looked at measures of human development – Gini scores, which measure relative income equality, life expectancy at first, which is a prediction of how long people live, and infant mortality, which measures the number of babies who die within a year. Now you know a little about how to measure development. And hopefully, after having watched all the videos in my series, you know more about the field of political science and have expanded your vocabulary. Thanks for watching all of them, and I hope you stay subscribed and come back for my next video, whether it be a series about another topic, or some tips for learning English faster and better.

Data for Gini coefficients from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book (

Data for life expectancy (2017 est.) from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book(

Data for infant mortality (2017 est.) from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book(


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