The Social Progress Index offers a tool to bring together a comprehensive set of social outcome measures in a transparent way. It allows individual countries to identify specific areas of strength or weakness in terms of social progress, as well as to benchmark themselves against peer countries both at the level of individual indicators as well as overall.
The Social Progress Index is based on a clear yet rigorous methodology that allows measurement of each component and each dimension, and yields an overall Index score and ranking. The approach builds on a long line of work in developing country-level globally comparable indices to measure and assess various facets of economic and social performance.(1) As described in further detail in the Methodology Appendix, the Index focuses exclusively on indicators of social outcomes; rather than measuring inputs, the Social Progress Index focuses on what level of social progress has already been achieved within a particular country.
The three different dimensions of the model—Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity—are each weighted equally in the overall index; each of these dimensions is calculated as the sum of four components, each of which is equally weighted. Finally, each component is based on a varying number of individual indicators of social progress within that component. The component scores are calculated using a procedure called principal component factor analysis, which allows one to calculate an aggregate score from multiple indicators related to a common concept.
Our model is based on the following definition of social progress:
Social progress is the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.
This overall definition can be disaggregated into three dimensions of social progress, that define the basic architecture of the model:
1 / Basic Human Needs: Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?
2 / Foundations of Wellbeing: Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing?
3 / Opportunity: Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?
In this inaugural Social Progress Index, each of these dimensions is disaggregated into four components, measured by between two and six specific indicators. Each indicator has been tested for internal validity and geographic availability.
The empirical challenge is to create a coherent and conceptually consistent index that reflects this framework and is able to be measured with available data. Our work builds on a long line of work in developing country-level indices to measure and assess various facets of social and economic performance. The SPI makes a number of specific choices in order to achieve its objective, including:
There are two broad categories of conceptually coherent methodologies for index construction: input indices and outcome indices. Both can help countries to benchmark their progress, but in very different ways. Input indices measure a country’s investment in activities believed or known to lead to an important outcome. In competitiveness, for example, an input index might measure investments in human capital or basic research. Outcome indices directly measure the outcomes of investments. For competitiveness, for example, this might include productivity per working-age citizen.
In contrast, when there are multiple “output” measures, lack of consensus on all the inputs that matter, and/or data related to inputs is highly incomplete, an outcome-oriented index may be more appropriate. Precisely because of these reasons, the Social Progress Index has been designed as an outcome index. Given current data and the fact that there are multiple distinct aspects of social progress with different measures, the Social Progress Index has been designed to aggregate and synthesize these multiple outcome measures in a conceptually consistent and transparent way that will also be salient to decision-makers. Over time, the Social Progress Index effort will explore the role of input measures and policies in determining a country’s performance.
For more detailed treatment of the methodology used to create the Social Progress Index, please see the Appendix of our inaugural report.