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The Meta Index of Indices on Global Development, Conflict and Related Fields

Craig Zelizer

November 4, 2015

In the world today statistics and numbers are an omnipresent part of how research and policy decisions are made, as well how we interpret the world. However, the human capacity to process raw data, particularly in a field in which we are not well versed, is limited. To help the index was created as a way to sort through information in a meaningful manner and also allow users to see how different entities stack up against each other. Indices (or indexes, both are acceptable) have now become a pervasive source of information particularly in the fields of social change and development.

To help researchers and practitioners in these fields, this guide aims to list key indices related to social change and development.

Please feel free to add other indices you have found helpful in your work with other colleagues as this list will continue to be a work in progress.

To begin, what is an index?

Merriam-Webster defines an index as, “a list (as of bibliographical information or citations to a body of literature) arranged usually in alphabetical order of some specified datum (as author, subject, or keyword).”[1] For our purposes datum can include anything from population numbers to state fragility. An index merely serves as to collect all the data in one place in an easily digested format. But despite this relatively simple concept, indices can be very powerful tools of information.

How are indices used?


There is a multitude of ways to use indices. Some include the following:

-       To show relationships between data points

-       To measure differences between entities

-       To provide specific data on a certain subject

-       To provide both qualitative and quantitative indicators on a given subject

-       To compare two entities based on the same measurement

-       To provide evidence for research

In the field of social change and development, indices can be a particularly powerful tool used to measure progress in areas that are traditionally hard to evaluate. For example, the World Happiness Report reviews the state of happiness in the world showing how the new science of happiness studies can help explain personal and national variations in happiness. The development of this index reflects the attention being paid to national happiness as an indicator of effective and legitimate government policy (although this is still a relatively new and not widely used index). By taking a previously limited quantifiable entity, this index makes happiness a goal for social change and development while also providing us with a way to measure it.

The following is a list of indices that can be used to inform research and work in social change and development. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is designed to be a resource for researcher, scholars, and practitioners alike.

The Index of Indices


African Infrastructure Development Index

This index monitors the status and progress of infrastructure development across the continent.


Better Life Index

This index compares well being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.


City Development Index

This index measures development level, livability, sustainability, relative disadvantage or poverty, congestion and inclusiveness in urban areas.


Civic Activism Index

The Civic Activism Index measures the strength of civic activism in a country using data on the extent of engagement in civic activities such as signing petitions, joining peaceful demonstrations, etc.


Commitment to Development Index

The CDI ranks wealthy governments on how well they are living up to their potential to help poor countries. It focuses on seven policy areas: aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, security, and technology.


Commonwealth Youth Development Index

This index measures the status of youth development in 170 countries incorporating measurements of physical, social, cognitive and vocational opportunities and development.


Conflict Barometer

The Conflict Barometer analyzes political conflicts by focusing on conflict processes rather than purely quantitative thresholds of casualties of war observing non-violent and violent crises, wars, coup d’états as well as peace negotiations.


Corruption Perceptions Index

The index measures the levels of perceived public sector corruption in countries around the world with scores ranging from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).


Democracy Index

The Democracy Index measures the state of democracy worldwide based on public opinion surveys and assessments in five categories: (1) electoral process and pluralism, (2) civil liberties, (3) the functioning of government, (4) political participation, and (5) political culture.


Ease of Doing Business Index

The index assesses whether the regulatory environments of countries are conducive to  starting and operating of a local business using ten indicators: (1) starting a business, (2) dealing with construction permits, (3) getting electricity, (4) registering property, (5) getting credit, (6) protecting minority investors, (7) paying taxes, (8) trading across borders, (9) enforcing contracts, and (10) resolving insolvency.


Economic Freedom of the World Index

The index measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately-owned property.


Environmental Democracy Index

This index tracks national progress in promoting environmental democracy in law and practice in 70 countries based on three categories: (1) transparency, (2) participation, and (3) justice, each being a subset index.


Environmental Performance Index

The Environmental Performance Index ranks countries on environmental health and ecosystem vitality.


Female Entrepreneurship Index

This index measures the development of potential female entrepreneurship worldwide.

Fragile States Index

The Fragile States Index focuses on the indicators of risk worldwide.


Freedom in the World Index

The Freedom in the World Index measures levels of political rights and civil liberties. Scores are an average of the two categories and range from 1.0–2.5 (free), 3.0–5.0 (partly free), to 5.5–7.0 (not free).


Gender Development Index

This index measures the gender gap in human development achievements in three basic dimensions: health, education, and command over economic resources.

Gender Equality Index

The Gender Equality Index assesses the impact of gender equality policies in the European Union around six dimensions - work, money, knowledge, time, power and health – as well as violence against women and inequalities.

Gender Inequality Index

This index measures gender inequalities in three areas - reproductive health, empowerment, and economic status.


Global Competitiveness Index

This index measures the business operating environments and microeconomic and macroeconomic levels of competitiveness of economies worldwide in 12 categories: (1) institutions, (2) infrastructure, (3) macroeconomic environment, (4) health and primary education, (5) higher education and training, (6) goods market efficiency, (7) labor market efficiency, (8) financial market development, (9) technological readiness, (10) market size, (11) business sophistication, and (12) innovation.


Global Conflict Risk Index

This index measures the statistical risk of violent conflict in the next 1-4 years using quantitative information in five areas: social, economic, security, political, and environmental/structural.


Global Fragility Ranking

The Global Fragility Ranking assess state fragility over time based on indicators taken from six categories: (1) governance, (2) economics, (3) security and crime, (4) human development, (5) demography, and (6) environment.


Global Gender Gap Report

This index measures national gender gaps on economic, political, educational, and health-based criteria using data from the World Economic Forum. The gap is measured in four categories: (1) economic participation, (2) educational attainment, (3) health and survival, (4) and political empowerment.


Global Hunger Index

The Global Hunger Index measures and tracks hunger by country and region using three categories: (1) undernourishment, (2) child underweight, and (3) child mortality.


Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources and ranks 162 independent states, covering 99.6 per cent of the world’s population. The index gauges global peace using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarization.


Global Terrorism Index

The Global Terrorism Index measures the lasting political, economic, and social effects of terrorism on countries around the world using four indicators: (1) number of terrorist incidents, (2) number of fatalities, (3) number of injuries, and (4) approximate level of property damage.


Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living.


Human Rights Database: Empowerment Rights Index

The Human Rights Database measures governments’ level of respect for internationally recognized human rights based on seven indicators: (1) foreign movement, (2) domestic movement, (3) freedom of speech, (4) freedom of assembly and association, (5) workers' rights, (6) electoral self-determination, and (7) freedom of religion.


IDA Resource Allocation Index

This index assesses developing countries’ policies to reduce poverty, promote sustainable growth, and effectively use development assistance using four categories: (1) economic management, (2) structural policies, (3) policies for social inclusion/equity, and (4) public sector management institutions.


Impunity Index

The Impunity Index identifies countries where governments fail to solve the murder of journalists within their borders. Only nations with five or more unsolved cases are included.


Index for Risk Management

This index identifies countries at high risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters that are likely to require international assistance using indicators in three categories: (1) hazards and exposure, (2) vulnerability, and (3) lack of coping capacity.


Index of Economic Freedom

The index examines property ownership; free movement of labor, capital, and goods; and the absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty, grouped into four categories: (1) rule of law, (2) limited government, (3) regulator efficiency, and (4) open markets.


Index of Philanthropic Freedom

The index measures countries on their ease of giving by examining barriers and incentives for individuals and organizations to donate money and time to social causes.


Inequality: GINI Index

The Gini Index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution.


Mass Killing Risk Assessment

This index estimates the risks of the onset of state-led mass killing in countries with populations greater than 500,000 based on the average of three models: (1) Bad Regime, (2) Elite Threat, and (3) Random Forests.


Measure of America

Measure of America provides easy-to-use yet methodologically sound tools for understanding the distribution of well-being and opportunity in America and stimulating fact-based dialogue about issues we all care about: health, education, and living standards


Multidimensional Poverty Index

The MPI shows the number of people who are multi-dimensionally poor (suffering deprivations in 33% of weighted indicators) and the number of deprivations with which poor households typically contend.


Network Readiness Index

The index measures the performance of economies in leveraging information and communications technologies to boost competitiveness and well being based on four categories: (1) environment, (2) readiness, (3) usage, and (4) impact.


Quality of Life Index

The Quality of Life Index surveys the following about quality of life in the cities: cost of living and purchasing power, affordability of housing, pollution including air, water, etc., crime rates, health system quality, and traffic (commute times).


Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Index measures the multiple dimensions of social progress and benchmarks success.


State Fragility Index

The State Fragility Index measures state effectiveness and legitimacy using indicators on security, political, economic, and social dimensions.


Transformation Index

The Transformation Index gauges whether developing and transition countries are moving towards greater levels of democracy and market economy grouped into two sub-indices political transformation and economic transformation.


Women’s Economic Opportunity Index

The Women's Economic Opportunity Index measures the factors affecting women's economic opportunities as employees and entrepreneurs in various countries in five categories: (1) labor practice and policy, (2) access to finance, (3) education and training, (4) women's legal and social status, and (5) general business environment.


World Happiness Report

The report reviews the state of happiness in the world today showing how the  science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness.


World Press Freedom Index

The World Press Freedom Index measures the degree of freedom that citizens, journalists, and news media enjoy based on six categories: (1) pluralism, (2) media independence, (3) environment and self-censorship, (4) legislative framework, (5) transparency, and (6) infrastructure.


World Wide Governance Indicators

This index is an aggregate report on 215 economies between 1996 and 2013 measuring 6 dimensions of governance: voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption.


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/index

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