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Given the limitations of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of wellbeing (cf. Stiglitz, Sen, & Fitoussi 2009), many researchers have made use of alternative indicators, such as the Human Development Index (HDI) introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Unfortunately, the UNDP does not calculate the HDI for Puerto Rico, and independent estimations have been scarce (Irizarry Mora 2001:297). This paper will estimate Puerto Rico's HDI, along with another recent indicator introduced by the UNDP, the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), for the year 2012. The estimation will be contrasted with previous estimates as well as for HDI values of other countries.

Method and Measurement

As discussed in the most recent Human Development Report (UNDP 2013), calculating the HDI consists of two main steps. The first step is calculating dimension indices for education, life expectancy, and Gross National Income (GNI) Per Capita. To ensure indices are between 0 and 1, maximum and minimum values are selected. Maximum values are the highest observed values for the UNDP's time series. Minimum values are set at 20 for life expectancy, 0 for education indicators, and $100 per capita for GNI. Finally, the dimension indices are computed in the following manner:

Dimension Index = actual value - minimum value/maximum value - minimum value

The education index is computed with two indicators, mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling. The previous equation is applied to each of them, and the geometric mean of the result is plugged into the equation again using 0 as the minimum, and the highest geometric mean of the resulting indices for the time period as the maximum. In terms of income, the natural logarithms of the actual, minimum, and maximum values are used.

The second step consists of aggregating these indices to produce the HDI. The most recent estimate of life expectancy in Puerto Rico is provided by the CIA World Fact Book (Central Intelligence Agency 2013), expected years of schooling (under the name "school life expectancy") is provided by the World Bank's EdStats database (World Bank 2013a), and GNI Per Capita is provided by the Puerto Rico Planning Board in the Economic Report to the Governor (2012). Mean Years of Schooling was computed using the Microdata samples provided by the American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). Thus, the HDI may be computed in the following manner:
Indicator                       Value

Life Expectancy                   79.07
Mean Years of Schooling           11.76
Expected Years of Schooling       15.6
GNI per Capita                  18,872

Life Expectancy Index = 79.07 - 20 / 83.6 - 20 = 0.9287

Mean Years of Schooling Index = 11.76 - 0 / 13.3 - 0 = 0.8842

Expected Years of Schooling Index = 15.6 - 0 / 18 - 0 = 0.8666

Education Index = [square root of (0.8842 x 0.8666)] - 0 / 0.971 - 0 = 0.9015

Income Index = ln (18,872) - ln (100) / ln (87,478) - ln (100) = 0.77358

HDI = [cube root of (0.9287 x 0.9015 x 0.77358)] = 0.8652

In terms of the IHDI, the process is composed of three steps. The first step consists of measuring inequality in each of the dimensions of the HDI. To do so, the UNDP computes an inequality measure A = 1 - g/[mu], where g is the geometric mean and [mu] is the arithmetic mean. This measure is computed for life expectancy, mean years of schooling, and disposable income. The geometric mean does not allow zero values, so for mean years of schooling one year is added to all observations. In order to deal with outliers in income, the top 0.5 percentile was truncated and negative and zero incomes were replaced with the minimum value of the bottom 0.5 percentile of the distribution of positive incomes.

The second step consists of adjusting the indices for inequality. For each index, [I.sub.x], the inequality adjusted index, [I.sup.*.sub.x], is computed with its corresponding inequality measure, [A.sub.x], in the following manner:

[I.sup.*.sub.x] = (1 - [A.sub.x])[I.sub.x]

Finally, the IHDI is calculated with the following formula:

IHDI = [cube root of ((1 - [A.sub.Life])(1 - [A.sub.Education])(1 - [A.sub.Income]))] x HDI

Geometric and arithmetic means for mean years of schooling and for income are calculated with the Microdata samples provided by the American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). For life expectancy, means are calculated using the variable "age of death" in the Basic Mortality dataset provided by the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics. The calculation yields the following:

IHDI = [cube root of ((1 - 0.0852)(1 - 0.08787)(1 - 0.404))] x 0.8652 = 0.685


In terms of trends in Puerto Rico's HDI, year to year comparisons are misleading as the UNDP constantly changes its methodology. Instead, comparisons of rankings are more appropriate. According to Irizarry Mora (2001:297), HDI estimates placed Puerto Rico at the 26th position in 1998, while the current estimate would place it in the 29th position in 2012. Puerto Rico may have slightly lagged behind or the drop could have been a result of the changes in methodology as well. Prior to 2010, the UNDP used GDP per capita instead of GNP per capita. Given Puerto Rico's significant gap between these two figures, this change could also explain the drop in ranking.

However, what is most interesting from the exercise is the substantial gap between HDI and IHDI. According to the UNDP (2010:87), "the HDI can be viewed as an index of "potential" human development" while "the IHDI is the actual level of human development." In other words, the "IHDI measures the "loss" in potential human development due to inequality." According to the American Community Survey data, in 2010 Puerto Rico had a significantly high GINI Index of 0.537 (U.S Census Bureau 2011). In other words, this would place Puerto Rico among the most unequal nations in the world, and as the seventh most unequal Latin American country (World Bank 2013b).

As stated above, HDI would rank Puerto Rico as the 29th country in terms of human development, not far behind countries such as the United Kingdom or Luxembourg (both tied at #26). Accordingly, Puerto Rico would be categorized as a "very high human development" country. However, in terms of the IHDI, Puerto Rico ranks as #39, with human development patterns closer to Romania (IHDI = 0.687) and Croatia (IHDI = 0.683). In this case, Puerto Rico is not even in the "high human development" category. Instead, the island would be categorized as a "medium human development" country. In other words, in a context of significantly low income inequality, Puerto Rico could potentially achieve very high human development, close to the actual living standards of countries like Sweden (IHDI = 0.859) and Netherlands (IHDI = 0.857). However, given prevailing patterns of inequality, Puerto Rico will most likely remain in medium levels of human development.


The introduction of the IHDI, and the associated differentiation between actual and potential human development, leads to the conclusion that during the past decades human development in Puerto Rico was in a sense overestimated. In other words, by focusing on a measure of potential human development, it was concluded that Puerto Rico enjoyed very high levels of human development. However, by focusing on actual human development through the IHDI, this paper concludes human development is in fact much lower than what it was understood to be. The exercise supports the argument made by economists such as Dietz (1989:328), who argue that while Operation Bootstrap was successful in terms of growth, it was greatly unsuccessful in terms of development, in the broad concept of the term. Similarly, it supports the argument that what is most recommendable for Puerto Rico is a development strategy of "equality with growth," instead of the "grow first" strategies dominant on the island since the 1950s (cf. Dietz 1989:261-262). As previously discussed, Puerto Rico could potentially achieve levels of human development close to the actual levels currently found in countries like Sweden or Netherlands if it were to substantially reduce its levels of inequality.


Central Intelligence Agency. 2013. Puerto Rico. In The World Factbook. Retrieved from < geos/rq.html>.

Dietz, James L. 1989. Historia economica de Puerto Rico. Rio Piedras: Huracan. Irizarry Mora, Edwin. 2001. Economia de Puerto Rico: evolucion y perspectivas. Mexico: Thomson Learning.

Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics. 2013. Basic Mortality [Data]. Retrieved from < aspx>.

Puerto Rico Planning Board. 2012. Economic Report to the Governor 2012. Retrieved <from>.

Stiglitz, Joseph. E., Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi. 2009. "Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress." Paris. Retrieved from < index.htm>.

United Nations Development Program. 2010. Human Development Report. Retrieved from <>.

United Nations Development Program. 2013. Human Development Report. Retrieved from <>.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2011. Household Income for States: 2009 and 2010. American Community Survey Briefs. Retrieved from < prod/2011pubs/acsbr10-02.pdf>.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Puerto Rico Population Records [Data]. 2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Public Use Microdata Samples. Retrieved from <>.

World Bank. 2013a. Puerto Rico. In EdStats. Retrieved from <http://>.

World Bank. 2013b. Gini Index. In World Development Indicators. Retrieved from < GINI?order=wbapi_data_ value_2010%20wbapi_data_value&sort=desc>.
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Title Annotation:Articulo en ingles
Author:Fuentes-Ramirez, Ricardo R.
Publication:Caribbean Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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