International statistics and social structure: the case of the Human Development Index


Work data:

Type of work: Article (academic)


Development | Sociology


Our statistics are too much with us. Measure for measure, we lay waste the opportunity to ask how the measures emerge and become institutionalized in the professional field. Some statistical measurements have become institutionalized, taken-for-granted entities, while similar measures have failed to gain widespread usage. For example, the number of people living on less than a dollar per day is commonly used as a way to count the number of poor among us; Gross National Product (GNP) accounts for the wealth of nations. But the development of human capacities for a long time seemed esoteric and too subjective to be considered on a worldwide scale. How did human development become institutionalized as a statistical measurement and a taken-forgranted category of thought? How do the dominant worldviews and the social structure affect the emergence, form, and institutionalization of international development statistics?