The Social Progress Index Comes to India

About the Social Progress Index: States of India

We are proud to announce the launch of the Social Progress Index: States of India. Developed by the Institute for Competitiveness, India with insights from the National Institution for Transforming India – NITI Aayog – the index represents the first comprehensive measurement of quality of life for over 1.3 billion people across 28 states and one union territory.

The Indian economy has undergone a major overhaul in recent decades and is now among the fastest-growing in the world. The social progress data captured in the index, which describes results from 2005-2016, reveal that this remarkable economic transformation has been accompanied by overall improvements in quality of life. But despite this encouraging trend, the country still fails to adequately provide many basic public services like health and education, and even the best-performing states have scope for improvement.

The index analyzes 54 social and environmental indicators that measure whether people have access to the essentials that economic metrics don’t capture, like shelter, nutrition, healthcare, education and freedom. It captures outcomes related to 16 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will prove and invaluable proxy measure for planning SDG implementation and benchmarking progress.


The index reveals that the states have not been equally successful at turning their economic growth into social progress. One example is the southwestern coastal state of Kerala, the highest-scoring state on the index, which achieves significantly more social progress (score of 67.75) than Gujarat (57.61) despite comparable wealth (as measured by Net State Domestic Product). This strongly suggests that other states could learn from Kerala’s policies and governance to raise their own scores and improve their people’s lives.

The index also reveals interesting thematic insights. Health is a challenge for India as a whole, with the data revealing that the country suffers from a dual health crisis of malnutrition and obesity. These challenges correlate strongly with income: all low-income states but Manipur have low obesity rates but high rates of malnourishment, while obesity is prevalent in many higher-income states.

There are also broader social progress trends across all 28 states that provide revealing insights.

  • In the Basic Human Needs dimension, which captures the aspects of social progress vital to human survival, the country as a whole is weakest on Nutrition & Basic Medical Care. Perhaps unexpectedly, India’s strongest performance in this dimension is in Water and Sanitation.
  • In the Foundations of Wellbeing dimension, which encompasses the services that enable citizens to enhance the quality of their lives, the lowest scores are in Access to Information & Communications. Fortunately, this is one area that a detailed analysis reveals to be a ‘quick win’ of development, meaning economic growth typically accompanies improvement in the component. Despite the challenge of obesity described above (which is not present in all states), India’s strongest performance in the dimension is on Health and Wellness.
  • In the Opportunity dimension, which measures whether society provides individuals with the chance to fulfill their potential, India’s lowest scores are in Access to Advanced Education, with enrollment ratios worse than those of other emerging economies such as China. India’s strongest performance in this area is in Personal Freedom and Choice, a major positive since this component is a persistent challenge in many countries and only correlates weakly with economic growth.

The data reveal the specific strengths and weaknesses of each state, allowing state and federal leaders to compare their progress, replicate successful policies and prioritize their resources in a way that responds to the actual needs of their people. Similarly, businesses can use the index findings to pinpoint the areas where their government-mandated CSR funds will have the greatest impact on the communities in which they operate.

Explore each state’s scorecard to see compare their strengths and weaknesses, and read the full report to delve deeper into the data with additional commentary and analysis by leading thinkers such as Bibek Debroy of NITI Aayog, Nitya Mohan Khemka of the University of Cambridge, Scott Stern of MIT and David Cruickshank, Global Chairman of Deloitte.

Blazing a trail

Home to one-sixth of the world’s people, India is the first country of its size to thoroughly and rigorously measure social progress throughout the country. Acting on the insights in the data, India’s government, businesses and investors have the potential to catalyze real improvement in the areas where the many states lag behind, like nutrition, access to information and communications, and access to advanced education.

With this index, India is blazing a trail for the rest of the world to follow. Emerging economies must measure their people’s quality of life and develop policies responsive to their needs to ensure their growth is inclusive and sustainable. Even the most economically advanced countries have complex problems that require the granular measurement of a subnational Social Progress Index to be understood and addressed.

The Social Progress Index: States of India is just the first step in a multi-year endeavor to comprehensively measure social progress for India’s 562 districts and 50 largest cities. The district-level calculations and analysis are already underway, which will only strengthen this tool and make it even more powerful and actionable.

To fully deliver on the game-changing potential of the Social Progress Index, this initiative needs sponsors and champions. Partner with us to support this next phase of index development, boost our movement’s growing momentum and ensure this singular opportunity to improve the lives of over 1.3 billion people does not pass us by.