Human Development in the United States: 1790-2000

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Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


John Olson, Economics


The end of economic activity is the betterment of the human experience. The United Nations has designed the Human Development Index to measure the basic ability of an economy to allow the participants a basic level of humanity. This index combines education, health, and real gross domestic product data to quantitatively measure the level of human development. Through United States history, the human experience has made great improvements. The largest improvement came in the United Nations health measure, life expectancy. When the United States historical Human Development Index was compared with currently developing nations HDIs, the historical measure demonstrated that the United States level of development was handicapped by low life expectancy values. As medical technologies have changed, the results showed that the index was biased toward current health care practices. Thus, it may be preferable to have flexibly maximum values in computing the index.