Development often takes place in an uneven way. A country may have a very high GDP - derived, for example, from the exploitation of rich oil reserves - while segments of the population live in poverty and lack access to basic education, health and decent housing.
Hence the importance of human development indicators, measuring the non-economic aspects of a country's development.
Studying development is about measuring how developed one country is compared to other countries, or to the same country in the past. Development measures how economically, socially, culturally or technologically advanced a country is. The two most important ways of measuring development are economic development and human development.
Economic development indicators
Economic development is a measure of a country's wealth and how it is generated (for example agriculture is considered less economically advanced then banking).
To assess the economic development of a country, geographers use economic indicators including:
- GNP per capita - is a country's GNP divided by its population. Per capita means per person. (GNP measures the total economic output of a country, including earnings from foreign investments).
- Economic growth - measures the annual increase in GDP, GNP, GDP per capita, or GNP per capita.
- Inequality of wealth - is the gap in income between a country's richest and poorest people. It can be measured in many ways, (eg the proportion of a country's wealth owned by the richest 10 per cent of the population, compared with the proportion owned by the remaining 90 per cent).
- Inflation - measures how much the prices of goods, services and wages increase each year. High inflation (above a few percent) can be a bad thing, and suggests a government lacks control over the economy.
- Unemployment - is the number of people who cannot find work.
- Economic structure - shows the division of a country's economy between primary, secondary and tertiary industries.
- Demographics - study population growth and structure. It compares birth rates to death rates, life expectancy and urban and rural ratios. Many LEDCs have a younger, faster-growing population than MEDCs, with more people living in the countryside than in towns. The birth rate in the UK is 11 per 1,000, whereas in Kenya it is 40.
Human development indicators
Human development measures the access the population has to wealth, jobs, education, nutrition, health, leisure and safety - as well as political and cultural freedom. Material elements, such as wealth and nutrition, are described as the standard of living. Health and leisure are often referred to as quality of life.
To assess the human development of a country, geographers use human indicators including:
- Life expectancy - the average age to which a person lives, eg this is 79 in the UK and 48 in Kenya.
- Infant mortality rate - counts the number of babies, per 1000 live births, who die under the age of one. This is 5 in the UK and 61 in Kenya.
- Poverty - indices count the percentage of people living below the poverty level, or on very small incomes (eg under £1 per day).
- Access to basic services - the availability of services necessary for a healthy life, such as clean water and sanitation.
- Access to healthcare - takes into account statistics such as how many doctors there are for every patient.
- Risk of disease - calculates the percentage of people with diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
- Access to education - measures how many people attend primary school, secondary school and higher education.
- Literacy rate - is the percentage of adults who can read and write. This is 99 per cent in the UK, 85 per cent in Kenya and 60 per cent in India.
- Access to technology - includes statistics such as the percentage of people with access to phones, mobile phones, television and the internet.
- Male/female equality - compares statistics such as the literacy rates and employment between the sexes.
- Government spending priorities - compares health and education expenditure with military expenditure and paying off debts.