India goes deeper with a district-level index, aimed at understanding each community uniquely

Our partners in India have just released the second in a series of social progress indexes. The 2018 Social Progress Index: Districts of India follows last year’s state-level index, and it provides even deeper insight on what it is like to live in India and how quality of life varies across more than 500 districts.

Both indexes are helping national and local government leaders track performance towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and corporations are using the data to target their CSR funds to where they will have the greatest impact.

“The Social Progress Index: Districts of India represents an unprecedented effort to holistically and comprehensively assess the quality of life of India’s citizens across 637 districts, independently of economic measures,” said Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative. “It is a testament to the commitment of India’s leaders to advance social progress in all corners of the country. However, measurement is just the first step. It is important that the index is used to inform decision making, guide investments and facilitate partnerships in order to improve the quality of life across regions and to serve as a complement to traditional economic measures.”

Our new district-level study with Institute of Competitiveness, India shows India has progress to build on as well as challenges to address.

The districts overall perform well on Access to Basic Knowledge (which includes primary and secondary school enrollment).

Access to Information and Communications (including mobile phones, Internet and free press) as well as Access to Advanced Education (including college attendance and graduation) are lagging behind.

There is a wide range of social progress outcomes within the country. The strongest district scores 76.80 out of 100 on the social progress scale and the weakest only offers 28.67.

Closer analysis reveals significant quality of life challenges in the central and eastern regions, comprising Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand.

Districts within a state do not perform uniformly either; implying the immense pool of knowledge and best practices could be better shared within and across borders to ensure everyone is thriving.

Bibek Debroy, Chairman, EAC-PM, helped to release the report this week and said, “When we look at India we often tend to look at it in terms of whats happening in states, we tend to look at it in terms of whats happening in districts, because these are administrative boundaries. The interesting churn that is happening in India now is not just competition among states but the great disparity among states and within states. Several of the states that historically were backward, according to whatever criteria you choose are now fast catching up. The distance between them and the more advanced states historically may still be large but that is because states like Punjab, Goa started with high base levels. Even more interesting is the fact that there are increasing variations within states. What is exciting is this churn and to understand what is happening to development and deprivation in India it is no longer enough to look at states. It is more important to look at districts.”

And a high-ranked district, like Hyderabad, does not necessarily perform well across all dimensions of progress. In addition to having the same challenges with information/communications and advanced education as the rest of the nation, this district also lags in supplying water and sanitation to its residents.

Please read the full report and explore the findings online to learn more. If you find the results interesting and helpful to your own research, we encourage you to make a gift to support the series of Indian social progress indexes planned for coming years. We have ambitious goals about helping city and village leaders understand the unique strengths and challenges within their communities so that they can grow inclusively and improve conditions for all.

Commenting on the results of Social Progress Index: Districts of India, Dr. Amit KapoorHonorary Chairman, Institute for Competitiveness also said, “The Social Progress Index: Districts of India offers a unique and revealing picture of India’s districts’ societal performance. Districts at all levels of development can use this data to assess their performance and set priorities for improvement. Most districts will be able to identify areas of relative strength, which represent social progress foundations upon which they can build.” He added that, “While there is a relationship between economic development and social progress, the relationship is not a direct one. There are districts at the same level of economic development that have high variations in social progress performance. This implies that economic growth is not the only means to achieve improvement in living standards and the focus should be laid on addressing social challenges directly.”

Manisha KapoorSenior Researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, who led the project refelcted, “In today’s world we not only gauge the economic success of regions through theGross Domestic Product lens but also consider it an appropriate measure of people’s wellbeing. This obsession with GDP is evident in the policymaking procedures, political speeches, media coverage etc. Our policies are relentlessly geared towards increasing the GDP for providing better living standards. But this view of growth in living standard doesn’t always match the realities of people’s life. Therefore, we have developed the Social Progress Index that provides a holistic measure of wellbeing of individuals. This will a powerful tool for policymakers as well as businesses to track and advance social progress at the sub-national level in India.”

Petra Krylova, Senior Analyst, Social Progress Imperative, who co-authored the index said, “The Social Progress Index has been a game changer in how we define and evaluate success and prosperity of our societies. It enables us to look beyond the economic and better understand and address the joys and challenges of people’s daily lives. The Social Progress Index: Districts of India shows that many answers to these might be just around the corner; each and every district has room for improvement, but also achievements to be proud of. It is my hope that India’s leaders and businesses, as well as civil society, will use the Index to break silos, cross boundaries, share and learn and strive to emulate best practices to advance social progress in India’s districts and beyond.”